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A Sketch of American Literature, 

By henry T. TUCKERMAN. 




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The present work, which was originally published under 
the title of " Outlines of English Literature," has been entirely 
re-written with a special view to the requirements of Students, 
so as to make it, as far as space would allow, a complete 
History of English Literature. The Author devoted to its 
composition the labor of several years, sparing neither time 
nor pains to render it both instructive and interesting. In 
consequence of Mr. Shaw's lamented death the MS. was placed 
in my hands to prepare it for publication as one of Mr. Mur- 
ray's Student's Manuals, for which purpose it seems to me 
peculiarly well adapted. Through long familiarity with the 
subject, and great experience as a teacher, the Author knew 
how to seize the salient points in English literature, and to give 
prominence to those writers and those subjects which ought 
to occupy the main attention of the Student. Considering the 
size of the book, the amount of information which it conveys 
is really remarkable, while the space devoted to the more im- 
portant names, such as Bacon, Shakspeare, Milton, Dryden, 
Addison, Sir Walter Scott, and others, is sufficient to impress 
upon the Student a vivid idea of their lives and writings. The 
Author has certainly succeeded in his attempt " to render the 
work as little dry — as readable, in short — as is consistent 
with accuracy and comprehensiveness." 

As Editor, I have carefully revised the whole work, com- 
pleted the concluding chapters left unfinished by the Author, 



and inserted at the end of the first and second chapters a brief 
account of Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and early English Litera- 
ture, in order to render the work as useful as possible to 
Students preparing for the examination of the India Civil 
Service, the University of London, and the like. Moreover I 
have, in the other Notes and Illustrations, given an account 
of the less important persons, w^hich, though not designed for 
continuous perusal, w^ill be useful for reference, for which pur- 
pose a copious Index has been added. All living writers are, 

for obvious reasons, excluded. 

W. S. 
London, January, 1864. 


In this Edition a few errors in names and dates have been 
corrected, and considerable additions have been made to the 
later chapters of the work. A brief account of the lives and 
works of more than two hundred and twenty authors has been 
added ; and it is believed that the work, in its present form, 
will be found to contain information respecting every writer 
who deserves a place in the his|tory of our literature. 

w. s. 

London, January, 1865. » 


Thomas Budd Shaw, born in Gower Street, London, on the 12th of 
October, 1813, was the seventh son of John Shaw, F. R. S., an eminent 
architect. From a very early period of his life, though of delicate 
constitution, he manifested that delight in the acquisition of knowledge 
which was continued throughout his subsequent career. In the year 
1822 he accompanied his maternal uncle, the Rev. Francis Whitfield, to 
Berbice in the West Indies, where that gentleman was the officiating 
clergyman, and who was eminently qualified as a scholar and an 
accomplished gentleman to advance his nephew in his studies and in 
the formation of his character. On his return from the West Indies, 
in 1827, he entered the Free School at Shrewsbury, where he became 
a favorite pupil of Dr. Butler, afterwards Bishop of Lichfield. Here 
the writer of this brief record recoHects that it was remarked of the 
subject of it that, although inferior to some of his contemporaries in the 
critical exactness of his scholarship, he was surpassed by none in the 
intuitive power with which he comprehended the genius and spirit of 
the great writers of antiquity. At this early period also, apart from 
school exercises, he rapidly accumulated that general and varied knowl- 
edge of books and things which when acquired seemed never to be 

From Shrewsbury, in 1833, Mr. Shaw proceeded to St. John's CoIt 
lege, Cambridge. On taking his degree, in 1836, he became tutor in 
the family of an eminent merchant; and subsequently, in 1840, he 
was induced to leave England for Russia, where he commenced his 
useful and honorable career, finally settling in St. Petersburgh in the 
year 1841. Here he formed an intimacy with M. Warrand, Professor 
at the University of St. Petersburgh, through whose influence, in 1842, 
he obtained the appointment of Professor of English Literature at the 
Imperial Alexander Lyceum. His lectures were eagerly attended : no 
professor acquired more thoroughly the love and respect of his pupils, 
many of whom continued his warmest admirers and friends in after 
life. In October in the same year he married Miss Annette Warrand, 
daughter of the Professor. 

In 1851 he came to England for the purpose of taking his Master of 

Arts degree; and on his return to Russia was elected Lector of English 

Literature at the University of St. Petersburgh. His first pupils were 

the Princes of Leuchtenburg ; and, his reputation being now thoroughly 

1 * (.0 


established, he was in 1853 engaged as tutor and Professor o) itnglish 
to the Grand Dukes, an appointment which he retained till his death. 

For nine years Mr. Shaw's position was in every respect v.nviable : 
haopy in his married life, loved by his pupils, respected and honored 
by all for his high attainments and many virtues, his life passed in 
peace and prosperity. A few years more, and his means would have 
enabled him to retire and pass the evening of his life in literary pur- 
suits. But this was not to be. In October, 1862, he complained of 
pain in the region of the heart; yet he struggled hard against his 
malady, until nature could bear no more. For a few days before his 
death he suffered acutely, but bore his sufferings with manly fortitude. 
On the 14th of November he was relieved from them, dying suddenly 
of aneurism. His death was regarded as a public loss, and his funeral 
was attended by their Imperial Highnesses, and a large concourse of 
present and former students of the Lj^ceum. A subscription was raised, 
and a monument is erected to his memory. 

The following is a list of such of Mr. Shaw's works as have come to 
our notice. 

In 1836 he wrote several pieces for "The Fellow," and " Fraser's 
Magazine." In 1837 he translated into verse numerous German and 
Latin poems, and wrote a few original poems of merit, some of which 
appeai-ed in " The Individual." Two well-written pieces, " The Song 
of Hrolfkraken the Sea King," and "The Surgeon's Song," were con- 
tributions to " Fraser's Magazine." In 1838 and two following years he 
contributed several translations from the Italian to " Fraser." In 1842 
he started "The St. Petersburgh Literary Review; " he also published 
in " Blackwood " a translation of " Anmalet Bek," a Russian novel, by 
Marlinski. In 1844 he published his first work of considerable length, 
a translation of "The Heretic," a novel in three volumes, by Lajetch- 
nikoff". The work was well received, and an edition was immediately 
reprinted in New York. In the following year appeared in " Black- 
wood " his " Life of Poushkin," accompanied by exquisite translations 
of several of the finest of that poet's productions. In 1846 his leisure 
time was entirely occupied in writing his " Outlines of English Litera- 
ture," a work expressly undertaken at the request of the authorities of 
the Lyceum, and for the use of the pupils of that establishment. The 
edition was speedily sold, and immediately reprinted in Philadelphia. 
A second edition was published by Mr. Murray in 1849; ^"^ ^he edition 
now offered to the public is the fruit of his later years and mature 
judgment. It may, indeed, be said to be an entirely new work, as the 
whole has been re-written. In 1850 he published in the " Qiiarter- 
ly" an exceedingly original and curious article, entitled "Forms of 


A Brief Memoir of the Author •••..• 5 


Origin of the English Language and Literature .... 11 

Notes and Illustrations: — 

A. Anglo-Saxon Literature . ^ . . . . 26 

B. Anglo-Norman Literature 28 

C. Semi-Saxon Literature 32 

D. Old English Literature 33 

The Age of Chaucer 35 

Notes and Illustrations: — 

A. The Predecessors of Gower, and Chaucer 53 

B. John Gower 55 

C. Wicliffe and his School -57 


From the Death op Chaucer to the Age of Elizabeth. . 59 

Notes and Illustrations: — 

A. Minor Poets 69 

B. Minor Prose Writers 70 


The Elizabethan Poets (including the Reign of James I.). 71 

Notes and Illustrations: — 

A. The Mirrour for Magistrates 84 

B. Minor Poets in the Reigns of Elizabeth and James I. . . 84 




The New Philosophy and Prose Literature in the Reigns 

OF Elizabeth and James 1 88 

Notes and Illustrations : — 

Minor Prose Writers in the Reigns of Elizabeth and James I. 107 

The Dawn of the Drama 108 

Shakspeare 128 


The Shakspearian Dramatists 152 

Notes and Illustrations: — 
Other Dramatists . 166 


The so-called Metaphysical Poets 167 

Notes and Illustrations : — 
Other Poets 176 


THfioLOGiCAL Writers of the Civil War and the Common- 
wealth 177 

Notes and Illustrations: — 

Other Theological and Moral Writers 186 

John Milton ', , 187 

Notes and Illustrations: — 
Contemporaries of Milton. 205 


The Age of the Restoration 207 

Notes and Illustrations : — 
Other Writers 231 


The New Drama and the Correct Poets 232 

The Second Revolution 249 

Notes and Illustrations: — 

A. Other Theological Writers 263 

B. Other Prose Writers 264 

Pope, Swift, and the Augustan Poets 265 

Notes and Illustrations: — 
Minor Poets 288 

The Essayists 289 

Notes and Illustrations: — 

A. Minor Essayists, &c 302 j 

B. Boyle and Bentley Controversy 302 \ 

Other Writers 304 ' 


The Great Novelists 305 

Notes and Illustrations: — \ 

Other Novelists 325 


Historical, Moral, Political, and Theological Writers 

OF the Eighteenth Century 326 \ 

Notes and Illustrations : — } 

Theological Writers 345 ^ 

Philosophical Writers 346 | 

Historians and Scholars 347 | 

Miscellaneous Writers 348 \ 

Novelists 349 I 


The Dawn of Romantic Poetry 350 

Notes and Illustrations : — 
Other Poets of the Eighteenth Century 372 

Walter Scott 375 


Byron, Moore, Shelley, Keats, Campbell, Leigh Hunt, and 

Walter Savage Landor 396 

Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey 420 

Notes and Illustrations: — 

Other Poets of the Nineteenth Century 432 

More Modern Poets 434 

The Modern Novelists 436 

Notes and Illustrations : — 
Other Novelists 458 


Prose Literature op the Nineteenth Century 459 

Notes and Illustrations : — 
Other Prose Writers of the Nineteenth Century 474 


Index to English Literature 533 

Index to American Literature 53S 



§ 1. The most ancient inhabitants of the British Isles. § 2. The Roman 
occupation. § 3. Traces of the Celtic and Latin periods in the English lan- 
guage. § 4. Teutonic settlements in Britain. § 5. Anglo-Saxon language and 
literature. § 6. Effects of the Norman conquest upon the English population 
and language. § 7. Romance Literature, Norman Trouveres and Proven9al 
Troubadoui's. § 8. Change of Anglo-Saxon into English. § 9. Principal 
epochs of the English language. 

§ 1. Within the limited territory comprised by a portion of the 
British Isles has grown up a language which has become the speech of 
the most free, the most energetic, and the most powerful portion of the 
human race ; and which seems destined to be, at no distant period, the 
universal medium of communication throughout the globe. It is a 
language, the literature of which, inferior to none in variety or extent, 
is superior to all others in manliness of spirit, and in universality of 
scope ; and it has exerted a great and a continually increasing influence 
upon the progress of human thought, and the improvement of human 
happiness. To trace the rise and formation of such a language cannot 
be otherwise than interesting and instructive. 

The most ancient inhabitants of the British Islands, concerning 
whom history has handed down to us any certain information, were a 
branch of that Celtic race which appears to have once occupied a large 
portion of Western Europe. Though the causes and period of their 
immigration into Europe are lost in the clouds of pre-historical tradi- 
tion, this people, under the various appellations of Celts, Gael (Gaul) 
or Cymry (Cimbrians), seems to have covered a very large extent of 
territory, and to have retained strong traces, in its Druidical worship, 
its astronomical science, and many other features, of a remote Oriental 
descent. It is far from probable, however, that this race ever attained 
more than the lowest degree of civilization : the earliest records of it 
which we possess, at the time when it came in contact with the Roman 
arms, show it to have been then in a condition very little superior to 
barbarism — a fact sufficiently indicated by its nomad and predatory 
mode of existence, by the abr.ence of agriculture, and above all by the 



universal practice of that infallible sign of a savage state, the habit of 
tattooing and staining the body. Whether the Phoenicians ever ex- 
tended their navigation to the British Islands must remain doubtful ; 
but their intercourse with the natives must in any case have been 
confined to the southern coast of the island ; and there is no ground 
for supposing that the influence of the more polished strangers could 
have produced any change in the great body of the Celtic population. 

§ 2. The first .important inteixourse between the primitive Britons 
and any foreign nation was the invasion of the country by the Romans 
in the year 55 B. C. Julius Caesar, having subdued the territory occu- 
pied by the Gauls, a cognate tribe, speaking the same language and 
characterized by the same customs, religion, and political institutions, 
found himself on the shores of the Channel, within sight of the white 
cliffs of Albion, and naturally desired to push his conquests into the 
region inhabited by a people whom the Romans considered as dwelling 
at the very extremity of the earth : "penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos." 
The resistance of the Britons, though obstinate and ferocious, was grad- 
ually overpowered in the first century of the Christian era by the 
superior skill and military organization of the Roman armies : the 
country became a Roman province ; and the Roman domination, though 
extending only to the central and southern portion of the country, that 
is, to England proper, exclusive of Wales, the mountainous portion of 
Scotland, and the whole of Ireland, may be regarded as having sub- 
sisted about 480 years. A large body of Roman troops was permanently 
stationed in the new province; a great military road, defended by 
strongly fortified posts, extended from the southern coast at least as far 
as York; and the invaders, as was their custom, endeavored to intro- 
duce among their barbarous subjects their laws, their habits, and their 
civilization. In the course of this long occupation by the Roman 
power, the native population became naturally divided into two distinct 
and hostile classes. Such of the Celts as submitted to the yoke of their 
invaders acquired a considerable degree of civilization, learned the Latin 
language, and became a Latinized or provincial race, similar to the 
inhabitants on the other side of the Channel. The other portion of the 
Celts, namely, those who inhabited mountainous regions inaccessible 
to the Roman arms, and those who, refusing to submit to the invaders, 
Hed from the southern districts to take refuge in their rugged fastnesses, 
retained, we may be sure, with their hostility to the invaders, their own 
language, dress, customs, and religion ; and it was these who, periodi- 
cally descending from the mountains of Wales and Scotland, carried 
devastation over the more civilized province, and taxed the skill and 
vigilance of the Roman ti'oops. It was to restrain the incursions of 
these savages that a strong wall was constructed in the reign of Severus 
across the narrowest portion of the island, from the River Tyne to the 
Solway Frith. When the Roman troops were at length withdrawn 
from Britain, in order to defend Italy itself against the innumerable 
hordes of barbarians which menaced it, Ave can easily comprehend the 
desperate position in which the Romanized portion of the population 


now found itself. Having in all probability lost, during their long 
subjection, the valor which originally distinguished them; having 
acquired the vices of servitude without the union which civilization 
can give, they found themselves exposed to the furious incursions of 
hungry barbarians, eager to reconquer what they considered as their 
birthright; and who, intense as was their hatred of the victorious 
Romans, must have looked with a still fiercer enmity on their degen- 
erate countrymen, as traitors and cowards who had basely submitted 
to a foreign yoke. Down from their mountains rushed the avenging 
swarms of Scottish and Pictish savages, and commenced taking a 
terrible vengeance on their unhappy countrymen. Every trace of 
civilization was swept away; the furious devastation which they 
carried through the land is commemorated in the ancient songs and 
legends of the Cymry; and the objects of their vengeance, after vainly 
imploring the assistance of Rome in a most piteous appeal, had 
recourse to the only resource now left them, of hiring some warlike 
race of foreign adventurers to protect them. These adventurers were 
the Saxon pirates. 

§ 3. Before approaching the second act in the great drama of English 
history, it will be well to clear the ground by making a few remarks 
upon the traces left by the Celtic period in the language of the country. 
It must first of all be distinctly remembered that the Celtic dialect, 
whether in the form still spoken in Wales, which is supposed to be the 
most similar to the language of the ancient Britons, or in that em- 
ployed in the Highlands of Scotland and among the Celtic population 
of Ireland, has only a very remote afiinity to modern English. It is in 
all respects a completely different tongue ; and so completely insignifi- 
cant has been its influence on the present language that, in a vocabu- 
lary consisting of about 40,000 words, it would be difficult to point out 
a hundred derived directly from the Celtic* 

It is true that the English language contains a considerable number 
of words ultimately traceable to Celtic roots; but these have been intro- 
duced into it through the medium of the French, which, together with 
an enormous majority of Latin words, contains some of Gaulish origin. 
The same remark may be made respecting the prominent Latin element 
in the English language. The Latin words, which constitute three- 
fifths of our language, cannot in any instance be proved to have derived 
their origin from any corrupt Latin dialect spoken in Britain, but to 
have been filtered, so to speak, through some of the various forms of 
the great Romance speech from which French, Italian, and Spanish 
are derived. One class of words, however, is traceable to the Brito- 
Roman period of our history; and this is ineffaceably stamped upon 
the geographj- of the British Isles. In Wales, in the Highlands of 
Scotland, and in Ireland, where the population is pure and unmixed, 
the names of places have probably remained unaltered from a very 

* On the Celic element in the English language, fee " The Student's Manual 
of the English Language," p. 28, seq., and p. 45. 


remote period, perhaps long anterior to the invasion of Julius Csesar; 
and even in those parts of the country which have been successively 
occupied by very different races, many appellations of pure Celtic 
antiquity have survived the inundations of new peoples, and may still 
be marked, like some venerable Druidical cromlech^ standing in hoar 
mysterious age in the midst of a more recent civilization. Thus the 
termination " don " is in some instances the Celtic word " dun" a rock 
or natural fortress. Again, the termination " caster"" or *' Chester" is 
unquestionably a monument of the Roman occupation of the island, 
indicating the spot of a Roman ^^ castrum " or fortified post.* 

§ 4. The true foundations of the English laws, language, and 
national character were laid, between the middle of the fifth and the 
middle of the six centuries, deep in the solid granite of Teutonic an- 
tiquity. The piratical adventurers whom the old German passion for 
plunder and glory, and also, perhaps, the entreaties of the " miserable 
Britons," allured across the North Sea from the bleak shores of their 
native Jutland, Schleswig, Holstein, and the coasts of the Baltic, were 
the most fearless navigators and the most redoubted sea-kings of those 
ages. On their arrival in Britain, concerning which the early chron- 
icles are filled with vague and picturesque legends, like that of Hengist 
and Horsa, these rovers were in every respect savages, though their 
rugged energetic Teuton nature, so admirably sketched by Tacitus at 
a preceding period, offered a rich and fertile soil capable of being 
developed by Christianity and civilization into a noble type of national 
character. Successive bands of the same race, attracted by the reports 
of their predecessors respecting the superiority of the new settlement 
over their own barren and perhaps over-peopled father-land, gradually 
established themselves in those parts of Britain which the Romans 
had occupied before them. But the same causes which prevented the 
Romans from penetrating into the mountainous districts of Wales and 
Scotland, continued to exclude the Saxons also from those inaccessible 
fastnesses. Gradually, and after sanguinary conflicts, they succeeded, 
as the armies of Rome had done before, in driving back into these 
regions the wild Celtic populations which had descended thence with 
the hope of reconquering their inheritance; and this historical fact 
receives confirmation from the circumstance that the present inhab- 
itants of these mountain regions are in the present day of pure Celtic 
blood, retaining the language of their British ancestors, and forming 
a race as completely distinct from the English people properly so 
called, as the Finn or the Lett, for example, from the Slavonic occupier 
of the land of his forefathers. The level, and consequently more easily 
accessible, portion of Scotland was gradually peopled by the Anglo- 
Saxon race ; and their language and institutions were established there 
as completely as in South Britain itself. This fact alone ought to be 

* In the same way some other Latin words appear in other names of places ; 
as strata, " paved roads," in Strat-Jbrd, Stret-ton; colonia, in Lin-coln ; port-ua^ 
in Ports-mouth, &c. 


sufficient to destroy the prejudice, so common not only among foreign- 
ers, but even among Englishmen, of regarding all the inhabitants of 
Scotland as Celts alike ; of representing William Wallace, for instance, 
in a Highland kilt — a mistake as ludicrous as would be that of painting 
Washington armed with a tomahawk, or adorned, like a Cherokee 
chief, with a belt of scalps or a girdle of wampum. It is probable that 
even the half-Romanized Britons who first invited the Saxon tribes to 
come to their assistance were speedily involved by their dangerous allies 
in the same persecution as their savage mountain countrymen : at all 
events one fact is certain, that the Celt in general, whether friendly or 
hostile, possessing a less powerful organization and a less vigorous 
moral constitution than the Teuton, was in the course of time either 
quietly absorbed into the more energetic race, or gradually disappeai-ed, 
with that fatal certainty which seems to be an inevitable law regulating 
the contact of two unequal nationalities, just as the aboriginal Indian 
has disappeared before the descendants of the very same Anglo-Saxons 
in the New World. It is only a peculiar combination of geographical 
conditions that has enabled the primeval Celt to retain a separate exist- 
ence on the territory of Great Britain, while the predominance — a 
numerical predominance only-^ of the Celtic race in the population of 
Ireland may be traced to other, but no less exceptional causes. 

§ 6. The true parentage, therefore, of the English nation, is to be 
traced to the Teutonic race. The language spoken by the Northern 
invaders was a Low-Germanic dialect, akin to the modern Dutch, but 
with many Scandinavian forms and words. Like the people who spoke 
it, it was possessed of a character at once practical and imaginative; 
at onc^real and ideal; and required but the influence of civilization to 
become a noble vehicle for reasoning, for eloquence, and for the expres- 
sion of the social and domestic feelings. In the modern English, all 
ideas which address themselves to the emotions, and all those which 
bring man into relation with the great objects of nature and with the 
sentiments of simple existence, will be invariably found to derive their 
linguistic representatives directly from the Teutonic tongue. The con- 
version of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, which took place in the 
aixth century, brought them into contact with more intellectual forms 
of life, and with a higher type of civilization : the transfer of their 
religious allegiance from Thor, Woden, Tuisk, and Freya to the Sa- 
viour, while it softened their manners, exposed their language to the 
modifying influences of the corrupt but more civilized Latin literature 
of the Lower Empire, and gave rapid proof how improvable a tongue 
was that in which they had hitherto produced nothing, probably, but 
rude war-songs and sagas like that of Beowulf. A very varied and 
extensive literature §oon arose among the Anglo-Saxons, embracing 
compositions on almost every branch of knowledge, law, historical 
chronicles, ecclesiastical and theological disquisitions, together with a 
large bod}'^ of poetry in which their very peculiar metrical system was 
adapted to subjects derived either from the Scriptures, or from the 
mediseval lives of the saints. The curious, but rather tedious, versified 


paraphrase of the Bible by Cffidmon — generally attributed to the 
middle of the seventh century — was long considered to be one of the 
most ancient among the more considerable Saxon poems ; but the 
discovery, at Copenhagen, of the Lay of BeoTvulf to which we have 
just alluded, has furnished us with a specimen of Anglo-Saxon poetry 
decidedly more ancient, as well as far more interesting; inasmuch as, 
having been composed in all probability at a period anterior to the 
general conversion of the race to Christianity, it is free from any traces 
of that imitation of the rhetorical style of the lower Latinity which 
prevents Caedmon from being a good representative of the national 
literature of his race. This poem, the picturesque vigor of which 
gives it a right to be placed among the most interesting monuments of 
early literature, is not inferior in energy and conciseness to the Nibe- 
Iu7ige7i-Lied, though undeniably so in extent of plot and development 
of character. The subject is the expedition of Prince Beowulf, a lineal 
descendant of Woden, from England to Norway, on the adventure of 
delivering the king of the latter country from a kind of demon or mon- 
ster which secretly enters the royal hall at midnight, and destroys some 
of the warriors who are sleeping there. This monster, called in the 
poem the Grendel, is probably nothing but the poetical personification 
of some dangerous exhalations from a marsh, for it is represented as 
issuing from a neighboring swamp, and as taking a refuge in the same 
abode, when, after a furious combat, Beowulf succeeds in driving it 
back, together with another evil spirit, into the glcpmy abj'ss. The 
description of the voj^age of Beowulf in his " foamy-necked " ship 
along the " swan-path " of the ocean, of his arrival at the Nonvegian 
court, and his narrative of his own exploits, are in a very similar style 
to the ancient Scandinavian Sagas. The versification of this, as well 
as of all Saxon pqetry in general, is exceedingly^ peculiar ; and the sjs- 
tem vipon which it is constructed for a long time defied the ingenuity 
of philologists. The Anglo-Saxons based their verse not upon any 
regular recurrence of syllables, accented and unaccented, or regarded, 
as among the Greeks and Romans, as long or short; still less upon the 
employmentof similarly sounding terminations of lines or parts oi lines, 
that is, upon what we call rhyme. With them it was sufficient to con- 
stitute verse, that in any two successive lines — which might be of any 
length — there should be at least three words hegi)ining with the same 
letter. This very peculiar metrical system is called alliteratioit.'^ 

The language in which these works are composed is usually called 
A7iglo- Saxon ; but in the works themselves it is alwajs styled English^ 
and the country England^ or the land of the Angles. The term Anglo- 
Saxon^ is meant to distinguish the Saxons of England from the Saxons 
of the Continent, and does not signify the Angles and Saxons. But 
why English became the exclusive appellation of the language spoken 
by the Saxons as well as the Angles, is not altogether clear, it has 

* For a fuller account of Anglo-Saxon literature, see Notes and Illustration^ 


been supposed bj some writers that the Saxons were only a section of 
the Angles, and consequently that the latter name was always recog- 
nized among the Angles and Saxons as the proper national appellation. 
Another hypothesis is, that, as the new inhabitants of the island 
became first known to the Roman see through the Anglian captives 
who were carried to Rome in the sixth century, the name of this tribe 
was given by the Romans to the whole people, and that the Christian 
missionaries to Britain would naturally continue^ to employ this name 
as the appellation both of the people and the country.* Some modern 
writers have proposed to discard the term Anglo-Saxon altogether, and 
employ English as the name of the language, from the earliest date to 
the present da_y. But, as has been already observed in a previous work 
of the present series, " a change of nomenclature like this v/ould 
expose us to the inconvenience, not merely of embracing within one 
designation objects which have been conventionally separated, but of 
confounding things logically distinct : for, though our modern English 
is built upon and mainly derived from the Anglo-Saxon, the two dia- 
lects are now so discrepant, that the fullest knowledge of one would not 
alone suffice to render the other intelligible to either the eye or the 
ear." For all practical purposes, they are two separate languages, as 
different from one another as the Italian from the Latin, or the present 
English from the German. 

For a long period the Saxon colonization of Britain was carried on 
by detached Teutonic tribes, who established themselves in such por- 
tions of territory as they found vacant, or from which they ousted less 
warlike occupants ; and in this way there gradually arose a number of 
separate and independent states or kingdoms. This epoch of our 
history is generaMy denominated the Heptarchy, or Seven Kingdoms, 
the names of the principal of which may still be traced in the appella- 
tions of our modern shires, as Essex and Northumberland. As might 
easily have been foreseen, one of these tribes or kingdoms, growing 
gradually more powerful, at last absorbed the others. This important 
event took place in the ninth century, in the reign of Egbert, from 
which period to the middle of the eleventh century, when there occurred 
the third great invasion and change of sovereignty to which the ccrun- 
try was destined, the history of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy presents a 
confused and melancholy picture of bloody incursions and fierce resist- 
ance to the barbarous and pagan Danes, who endeavored to treat the 
Saxons as the Saxons had treated the Celts. The only brilliant figure 
in this period is the almost perfect type of a patriot warrior, king, and 
philosopher, in the person of the illustrious Alfred; whose virtues 

* For further particulars see the " Student's Manual of the English Lan- 
guage," pp. 14, 15. It is there shown that the common account of the imposi- 
tion of the name of England upon the country by a decree of King Egbert, is 
unsupported by any contemporaneous or credible testimony ; and that the title 
of Anglice or Anglorum Rex, is much more naturally explained by the supposi- 
tion that Eiiglajid and English had been already adopted as the coUective namea 
of the country and its inhabitants. 


would appear to posterity almost fabulous, were they not handed down 
in the minute and accurate records of a biographer who knew and 
served him well. The two fierce races, so obstinately contending for 
mastery, were too nearly allied in origin and blood for their amalgama- 
tion to have produced any very material change in the language or 
institutions of the country. In those parts of England, principally in 
the North and East, as in some of the maritime regions of Scotland, 
where colonies of Danes established themselves, either by conquest or 
by settlement, the curious philologist may trace, in the idiom of the 
peasantry and still more clearly in the names of families and places, 
evident marks of a Scandinavian instead of an Anglo-Saxon popula- 
tion. As examples of this we may cite the now immortal name of 
Havelocli, derived from a famous sea-king of the same name, who is 
said to have founded the ancient town of Whitby, the latter being the 
Scandinavian Hvitby. As to memorials of the Saxons, preserved in the 
names of men, families, or places, or in the less imperishable monu- 
ments of architecture, they are so numerous that there is hardly a 
locality in the whole extent of England where a majority of the names 
is not pure and unaltered Saxon; the whole mass of the middle and 
lower classes of the population bears unmistakable marks of pure 
Saxon blood : and the sound and sterling vigor of the popular lan- 
guage is so essentially Saxon, that it requires but the re-establishment 
of the now obsolete inflections of the Anglian grammar, and the 
substitution of a few Teutonic words for their French equivalents, 
to recompose an English book into the idiom spoken in the days of 

§ 6. It would be, however, an error to suppose that all the words of 
Latin origin found even in the earlier period of the English language 
were introduced after the introduction into England of the Norman- 
French element; that is to say, after the conquest of the country by 
William in the eleventh century. For a long time previous tc that 
event the cultivation of the Latin literature in the monasteries and 
among the learned, as well as the employment of the Latin language 
in the services of the Church, must have tended to incorporate with 
the Saxon tongue a considerable number of Latin words. Alfred, we 
know, visited Rome in his youth, acquired there a considerable portion 
of the learning which he unquestionably possessed, and exhibited his 
patriotic care for the enlightenment of his countrymen by translating 
into Saxon the " Consolations " of Boethius. The Venerable Bede, 
and other Saxon ecclesiastics, composed chronicles and legends in Latin, 
and we may therefore conclude that, though the sturdy Teutonic na- 
tionality of the Anglo-Saxon language guarded it from being corrupted 
by any overwhelming admixture of Latin, yet a considerable influx of 
Latin words maj' have become perceptible in it before the appearance 
of Normans on our shores. It is also to be remarked that the superior 
civilization of the French race must have exerted an influence on at 
least the aristocratic classes ; and the family connections between the 
last Saxon dynasty and the neighboring dukes of Normandy, of which 


the reign of Edward the Confessor furnishes examples, must have 
tended to increase the Gallicizing character perceptible in Anglo-Saxon 
writings previous to the Conquest. In tracing the influence of that 
mighty revolution on the language, the institutions, and the national 
character of the people, it will be advisable to advert separately to its 
effects as regarded from a political, a social, and a philological point 
of view. 

The most important change consequent upon the subjugation of tlie 
country by the Normans was obviously the establishment in England 
of the great feudal principle of the military tenure of land, of the 
chivalric spirit and habits which were the natural result of feudal insti- 
tutions, and lastly, of the broad demarcation which separated society 
into the two great classes of the Nobles and the Serfs. It is unnecessary 
to say that the feudal institutions, which lay at the bottom of all these 
modifications, were totally unknown to the original Saxons who 
established themselves in England, and were indeed utterly repugnant 
to that free democratic organization of society which they brought 
with them from their native Germany, and which Tacitus shows to 
have universally prevailed among the primitive dwellers of the Teu- 
tonic swamps and forests. The Scandinavian pirates, who carried 
devastation over every coast accessible to their " sea-horses," and who, 
under the valiant leadership of Hrolf the Ganger, wrested from the 
feeble and degenerate successors of Charlemagne the magnificent 
province to which they gave their own North-man appellation, adopted, 
from the force of circumstances, that strong military organization 
which could alone enable a warlike minority to hold in subjection a 
more numerous but less vigorous conquered people. Like the Lom- 
bards in Italy, like a multitude of other races in different parts of the 
world and in different historical epochs, they found feudal institutions 
an indispensable necessity of their position ; and what had been forced 
upon them at their original occupation of Normandy they naturally 
practised on their irruption into England. But as the invasion of 
William was carried'^on under at least a colorable allegation of a legal 
right to the inheritance of the English throne, his investiture of the 
crown was accompanied by a studied adherence to the constitutional 
forms of the Saxon monarchy; and it was perhaps only the obstinate 
resistance of the sullen, sturdy Saxon people, that at length wearied 
him into treating his new acquisition with all the rigor of a conquering 
invader. The whole territory was by his orders carefully surveyed and 
registered in that curious monument of antiquity, which still exists, 
entitled Domesday Book : the severest measures of police, as for exam- 
ple the famous institution of the Curfew (which was, however, no new 
invention of William to tyrannize over the enslaved country, but a very 
common regulation in feudal states), were introduced to keep down the 
rising of the people ; the territory was divided into 60,000 fiefs ; the 
original Saxon holders of these lands were as a general rule ousted 
from their estates, which were distributed, on the feudal conditions of 
homage and general defence, to the warriors who had enabled him to 


subjugate the country; vast tracts of inhabited lands were depopulated 
and transformed into forests for the chase, and the higher functions of 
the Church and State were with few exceptions confided to men of 
Norman blood. The natural consequence of such a state of things, 
when it continued, as it did in England, through the reigns of the long 
series of Norman and Plantagenet sovereigns, was to create in the 
country two distinct and intensely hostile nationalities. The Saxon 
race gradually descended to the level of an oppressed and servile class ; 
but being far superior in numbers to their oppressors, they ran no risk 
of being absorbed and lost in the dominant people. The high qualities, 
too, of the Norman race, qualities which made them greatly superior 
in valor, wisdom, and intellectual activity, to any other people then 
existing on the continent of Europe, no less saved them from gradually 
disappearing in the subjugated population. It required several ages to 
amalgamate the two nationalities ; but, partly in consequence of their 
high, though very different merits, and partly in consequence of a most 
peculiar and happy combination of circumstances, they were ultimately 
amalgamated, and formed the most vigorous people which has ever 
existed upon earth. In the present case the two nationalities were not 
dissolved in each other, but like some chemical bodies their affinities 
combined to form a new and powerful substance. But for several cen- 
turies the two fierce and obstinate races felt nothing but hatred towards 
each other, a hatred cherished by the memory of a thousand acts of 
tyranny and contempt on the one part, and savage revenge and sullen 
degradation on the other. Macaulay has well observed that, " so 
strong an association is established in most minds between the great- 
ness of a sovereign and the greatness of the nation which he rules, 
that almost every historian of England has expatiated with a senti- 
ment of exultation on the power and splendor of her foreign masters, 
and has lamented the decay of that power and splendor as a calamity 
to our country. This is, in truth, as absurd as it would be in a Hay- 
tian negro of our time to dwell with national pride on the greatness 
of Lewis XIV., and to speak of Blenheim and Ramillies with patriotic 
regret and shame. The Conqueror and his descendants- to the fo\rth 
generation were not Englishmen : most of them were born in France : 
their ordinary speech was French : almost every high office in their 
gift was filled by a Frenchman : every acquisition which they made on 
the continent estranged them more and more from the population of 
our island." Though every trace of this double and hostile nationality 
has long passed away, abundant monuments of its having once existed 
may be still observed in our language. The family names of the higher 
aristocracy in England are almost universally French, while those of 
the middle and lower orders are as unmistakably German. Thus our 
peerage abounds in Russells (Roussel), Mortimers (Mortemar), Cour- 
tenays, and Talbots, while the Smiths, Browns, Johnsons, and Hodgkins 
plainly betray their Teutonic origin. Under the Norman regime the 
Saxon subdivisions of the country were transformed from the demo- 
cratic skire into the feudal county, administered by a military governor 


or count. The ancient Saxon zviianagemote, or thing; was metamor- 
phosed into the feudal Parlement., the members of which occupied their 
seats, not as elective representatives of the people, but in their feudal 
capacity as vassals in the enjoyment of military fiefs. Thus the great 
ecclesiastical dignitaries took part of right in the deliberations of the 
legislative body, in their quality of holders of lands, and as such dis- 
posing of a certain contingent of military force. 

But it is with the effects of the Norman Conquest upon the language 
of the country that we are at present concerned : and it is here that 
the task of tracing the process of admixture between the two races 
becomes at once more complicated and more interesting. On their 
arrival in Normandy, the piratical followers of Hrolf the Ganger had 
found themselves exposed to the civilizing influences which a small 
minority of rude conquerors, placed in the midst of a subject popula- 
tion superior to them in numbers as well as intellectual cultivation, 
can never long resist with success. Like the hordes of barbarian 
invaders who shared among them the territories of the Roman empire, 
the Northmen, with the Christianity of the conquered nation, imbibed 
also the language and civilization so intimately connected with that 
Christianity, and in an incredibly brief space of time exchangee} for 
their native Scandinavian dialect a language entirely similar, in its 
words and grammatical forms, to the idiom prevalent in the northern 
division of France. It was a repetition of the introduction of Greek 
art and culture into republican Rome : — 

Greecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes. 

The language thus communicated by the subject to the conquered 
nation was a dialect of that great Romance speech which extended 
during the Middle Ages from the northern shore of the Mediterranean 
to the British Channel, and which may be defined as the decomposition 
of the classical Latin. It was soon divided into two great sister- 
idioms, the Langue-d'Oc and the Langue-d'Oil (so called from the 
different words for yes)^ the general boundary or line of demarcation 
between them being roughly assignable as coinciding with the Loire. 
The former of these languages, spoken to the south of this river, was 
closely allied to the Spanish and Italian, and was subsequently called 
the Provencal ; the latter was the parent of the French. Knowing the 
circumstances under which such a dialect as the Romance was formed, 
it is no difficult problem to establish a priori the changes which the 
mother-tongue, or Latin, must have undergone, in its process of trans- 
formation into what, though afterwards developed into regular and 
beautiful dialects, was at first little better than a barbarous jargon. 
The language of ancient Rome, a highly inflected and complicated 
tongue, naturally lost all, or nearly all its inflections and grammatical 
complexity. Thus the Latin substantive and adjective lost all those 
terminations which in the original language expressed relation, as the 
various cases of the different declensions ; these relations being thence- 
forward indicated by the simpler expedient of prepositions. 


§ 7. The literary models introduced into England by the Norman 
invasion were no less important than the linguistic changes consequent 
upon the admixture of their Romance dialect with the Saxon speech. 
Together with the institutions of feudalism the Normans brought with 
them the poetry of feudalism, that is, the poetry of chivalry. The 
la is and romances, the fabliaux and the legends of mediceval chivalry 
soon began to modify the rude poetical sagas and the tedious narratives 
of the lives of saints and hermits which had formed the bulk of the 
literature of Saxon England. Few subjects have excited more lively 
controversy among the learned than the origin and specific character 
of the Romance literature. In particular the distinction between the 
compositions of the Norman Trouveres and of the Provencal Trouba- 
dours has given rise to many elaborate dissertations and many con- 
tending theoi-ies : and yet the fundamental question may be easily, and, 
we think, not unsatisfactorily, solved by the simple comparison of the 
two terms. Trouvhre and Troubadour are obviously the two forms of 
the same word as pronounced respectively by the population who 
spoke the Langue-d'Oil and the Langue-d'Oc. The natural and pic- 
turesque definition of a poet as i^ finder or inventor hezLXS some analogy 
with the term Skald, or polisher of language, by which the same idea 
was represented among the Scandinavians, with the Greek nonjri',g, a 
term exactly reproduced in the Maker of the Lowland Scots ; and the 
beautiful qualification of the poetic art as el gay saber and la gitoye 
science, no less faithfully corresponds to the idea contained in the 
Saxon term gleeman, applied to the singer or bard, whose invention 
furnished the joy of the banquet. Now, if we keep in mind the charac- 
teristic differences which are universally found to distinguish a North- 
ern as compared with a Southern people, we shall generally find that 
in the former the imagination, the sentiments, and the memory are 
most developed, while the latter will be more remarkable for the 
vivacity of the passions and the intensity — and consequently also the 
transitory duration — of the affective emotions. We might therefore 
predict h priori, given respectively a Northern and a Southern popula- 
tion, that among the former an imaginative or poetical literature would 
have a natural tendency to take a narrative, and among the latter a 
lyric, form : for narrative is the necessary type in v/hich the first- 
mentioned class of intellectual qualities would clothe themselves, while 
ardent and transitory passion would as inevitablj' express itself in the 
lyric form. And this is what we actually find, on comparing the 
prevailing literary type of the Trouvhre with that of the Troubadour 
literature. It is evident that the composition of long narrative recitals 
of real or imaginary events would require a certain degree of literary 
culture, as well as a considerable amount of leisure ; and therefore 
many of the interminable romances of the Trouveres may be traced to 
the ecclesiastical profession ; while the shorter and more lively lyric 
and satiric i^ffusions which constitute the bulk of the Troubadour liter- 
ature were t'requently the productions of princes, knights, and ladies, 


the power of writing verse being considered as one of the necessarjr 
accomplishments of a gentleman : — 

*' He coude songes make, and wel endite." 

Concerning the source from which the Romance poets, both of the 
Northern and Southern dialects, drew the materials for their ehivalric 
fictions, great diversity has prevailed; and the various theories which 
have been broached on this curious subject maj' be practicallj reduced 
to two hypotheses ; the one tracing these inventions to an Oriental, and 
the other to a Celtic source ; while a third class of investigators have 
endeavored to assign to them a Teutonic paternity, whether in the 
general German or the exclusively Scandinavian nationality'. Each of 
these theories has been supported with much ingenuity, and defended 
with an immense display of learning : but they are all equally obnox- 
ious to the reproach of having been made too exclusive : the existence 
of the well-marked general features of Chivalric Romance long before 
the European nations acquired, by the Crusades, any familiarity with 
the imagery and scenery of the East renders the first hypothesis 
untenable in its full extent; while the second is in a great measure 
invalidated by the comparativelj' barbarous state into which the Celtic 
tribes had generally fallen at the time when the Chivalric literature 
began to prevail, and the little knowledge which the Romance popu- 
lations of Europe possessed of the ancient Gaulic language and 
historical legendary lore. It is true that the Trouveres almost inva- 
riably pretend to have found the subjects of their narratives in the 
traditions, or among the chronicles of the " olde gentil Bi-etons," ju^t 
as Marie de France refers her reader to the Celtic or Armorican 
authorities ; but this was in all probability in general a mere, literaiy 
artifice, like that which induced other poets to place the venue of their 
wondrous adventures in some distant and unknown region : — 
" In Sarra, in the lond of Tartarie." 

The important part played in these legends by the half-mythical Ar- 
thur and his knights might seem to argue in favor of a Celtic origin 
for these fictions ; for if ever such a personage as Arthur really existed 
he must have been a British prince ; but when we remember that 
Arthur, though mentioned in the authentic traditional poems of the 
ancaint Britons, is a comparatively insignificant character, and that 
these same traditions contain no trace whatever of the existence of 
that chivalric state of society of which Arthur and his ^reux are the 
ideal, we shall find ourselves as much warranted in accepting the 
authenticity of a Celtic origin on these grounds, as in attributing the 
chivalric character with which Alexander, Hector, and Hercules are 
also invested in the mediteval poets, to an intimate acquaintance with 
the Homeric .and classical poems, from which the Troubadour may 
indeed have borrowed some striking names and leading incidents, but 
with the true spirit of which every line shows him to be unacquainted.* 
§ 8. For two centuries after the Norman conquest, the Anglo-Saxon 

* See Notes and Illustrations (B), Anglo-Norman Literature. 


and the Norman-French continued to be spoken in the island, as two 
distinct languages, having little intermixture with one another. The 
most important change, which converted the Anglo-Saxon into Old 
English, and which consists chiefly in the substitution of the vowel e 
for the different inflections, was not due in any considerable degree to 
the Norman conquest, though it was probably hastened by that event. 
It commenced even before the Norman conquest, and was owing to the 
same causes which led to similar changes in the kindred German 
dialects. The large introduction of French words into English 'dates 
from the time when the Normans began to speak the language of the 
conquered race. It is, however, an error to represent the English lan- 
guage as springing from a mixture of Anglo-Saxon and French ; since 
a mixed language, in the strict sense of the term, may be pronounced 
an impossibility. The English still remained essentially a German 
tongue, though it received such large accessions of French words as 
materially to change its character. To fix with precision the date when 
this change took place is manifestly an impossible task. It was a 
gradual process, and must have advanced with more or less rapidity 
in difterent parts of the country. In remote and less frequented districts 
the mass of the population long preserved their pure Saxon speech. 
This is sufficiently proved by the circumstance, that even in the present 
day, the inhabitants of such remote, or uj>la?id districts, still show in 
their patois an evident preponderance of the Saxon element, as ex- 
hibited in the use of many old German words which have long ceased 
to form part of the English vocabulary, and in the evident retention 
of German peculiarities of pronunciation. " Nothing can be more 
difiicult," says Hallam, " than to determine, except by an arbitrary 
line, the commencement of the English language ; not so much, as in 
those of the Continent, because we are in want of materials, but rather 
from an opposite reason — the possibility of tracing a very gradual suc- 
cession of verbal changes, that ended in a change of denomination. 
For when we compare the earliest English of the thirteenth century 
with the Anglo-Saxon of the twelfth, it seems hard to pronounce why 
it should pass for a separate language, rather than a modification or 
simplification of the former. We must conform, however, to usage, 
and say that the Anglo-Saxon was converted into English : i. by con- 
tracting or otherwise modifying the pronunciation and orthography of 
words ; 2. by omitting many inflections, especially of the noun, and 
consequently making more use of articles and auxiliaries ; and 3. by 
the introduction of French derivatives. Of these the second alone, 
I think, can be considered as sufiicient to describe a new form of 
language ; and this was brought about so gradually, that we are not 
relieved of much of our difficulty, whether some compositions shall 
pass. for the latest oft'spring of the mother, or for the earliest proofs of 
the fertility of the daughter." 

The picturesque illustration, so happily emploj-ed by Scott in the 
opening chapter of Ivanhoe, has often been quoted as a good popular 
exemplification of the mode in which the Saxon and French elements 


were blended : the common animals serving for food to man, while 
under the charge of Saxon serfs and bondmen, retained their Teutonic 
appellation ; but when served up at the table of the Norman oppressor 
received a French designation. As examples of this, he cites the par- 
allels Ox and Beef, Sivifie and Pork, Sheep and Mutton, Calf and Veal. 
It is curious to see, on examining the grammar and vocabulary of the 
early English language, as exhibited in the writings of our old poets 
and chroniclers, how often the primitive Saxon forms continued very 
gradually to become effaced, while the French orthography and pro- 
nunciation of the newly introduced words have not j-et become harmo- 
nized, so to speak, with the general character of the new idiom. Thus, 
in the following lines of Chaucer : — 

" The sleer of himself yet saugh I there, 
His herte-blood hath bathed al his here ; 
The nayl y-dryve in the shode a-nyght ; 
The colde deth, with mouth gapyng upright, 
Amyddes of the tempul set mischaunce, 
With scry comfort and evel contynaunce." 

In these verses we see the Saxon grammatical forms combined with a 
large importation of Norman-French words, which have not yet lost 
their original accentuation. The old German is found running into, 
as it were, and overlapping the lately-introduced Gallicism. Such 
was the state in which Chaucer found the national idiom at the begin- 
ning of the fourteenth centuiy, and the admirable genius of that great 
poet may be said to have put the last touch to the consolidation of the 
English language. For a considerable period after his time, however, 
such writings as were addressed to the sympathies of the lower classes 
continued to retain much of the Saxon characteristics in orthography, 
grammatical structure, and versification ; for example, traces of the 
peculiar alliterative system are perceptible for a period long subsequent 
to the reign of Richard II., while the elaborate compositions addressed 
to the still purely Norman nobility retain much of the French spirit in 
their diction and imagery. 

§ 9. Though it is impossible to assign any exact date to the change 
of Anglo-Saxon into English, the chief alterations in the language may 
be arranged approximately under the following epochs : — 

I. Anglo-Saxon, from A. D. 450 to 1150. 

II. Semi-Saxon, from A. D. 1150 to 1250 (from the reign of Stephen 
to the middle of the reign of Henry III.), so called because it partakes 
strongly of the characteristics of both Anglo-Saxon and Old English. 

III. Old English, from A. D. 1250 to 1350 (from the middle of the reign 
of Henry III. to the middle of the reign of Edward III.). 

IV. Middle English, from A. D. 1350 to about 1550 (from the middle 
of the reign of Edward III. to the reign of Edward VI.). 

V. Modern English, from A. D. 1550 to the present day.* 

* The -writers who wish to discard the term Anglo-Saxon call the Anglo- 
Saxon First English, the Semi-Ssxon Second English, and give the name of 
Third English to the remnining periods. 



[Chap. I. 

The three first periods scarcely belong to a history of English litera- 
'ture, and consequently only a brief account of them is given in the 
Notes and Illustrations appended to the present chapter. The real 
history of English literature begins with Chaucer, in the brilliant reiga 
of Edward III, * 


A. D. 450-1150. 

The earliest literature of the Anglo-Saxons bears 
the impress of the religious culture under which it 
was formed. Unlike their brethren, who sung their 
old heroic lays in their primeval forests, the con- 
querors of the rich provinces of Britain had sunk 
from action to contemplation, and their literature 
was artificial. There was but little difference of 
time in the development of poetry and prose ; and 
the works produced were, with only three excep- 
tions, the elaborate compositions of educated men, 
rather than the spontaneous products of genius, in- 
spired by a people's ancient legends. The chief 
subjects were moral, religious, historical, and didac- 
tic. Undei^thc tutelage of the Church, the most 
lasting monuments of Anglo-Saxon prose literature 
were written in Latin; and the vernacular tongue 
was chiefly employed in translating the learned 
works of such men as Bede and Alcuin. What 
value it possesses is chiefly for its matter ; for it al- 
most entirely wants that beauty of form, which 
alone raises literature to an art. 

I. The Veknactjlae Poetet scarcely retains 
a trace of that wild epic fire which is seen in the 
Scandinavian Sagas, (i.) We have only three spe- 
cimens of old national songs, written in the spirit of 
the continental Germans, and probably composed, 
in part at least, before their migration to England. 
The first of these is the Lay of Beowulf, which is 
fully described in the text. Its spirit is that of the 
old heathen Germans. It seems to have been origi- 
nated at the primitive seat of the .\ngles, in Schles- 
wig, and to have been brought over to England 
about the end of the fifth century. The other two 
are the Traveller's Sonff, and the Battle of Finnes- 
burg, the scene of which seems to be on the Conti- 
nent. It is only in the tenth century that we again 
meet with compositions of this class, in the patri- 
otic poems on Athelstane's Victory at Brunanburgh 
(A. D. 938), on the Coronation (A. D. 958), and the 
Death of Edgar (A. D. 975), and on the Battle of 
Jlalc/on (A. D. 993). (2.) Of Religious Poetry, the 
chief specimen is the so-called Metrical Paraphrase 
of the Scrij/tures, which Bede ascribes to CJiDMOi^, 
a monk of Whitby, in the seventh centurj'. 
Some modem writers assign the work to a mucli 
later date. But whatever be the date, it is a striking 
poem, and appears to have supplied Milton with 
some hints. One passage strikingly resembles Mil- 
ton's soliloquy of Satan in hell. Cynewulf (in 
Latin Kenulphus), a monk of Winchester, and 
abbot of Peterborough in 932, is higlily eulogized 
by a local historian ; but we have only two short 

poems which preserve his name in a sort of acroitic 
of Runic characters. Aldhelm, the great Latin 
writer mentioned below, wrote poetry in the 
vernacular, and is said to have translated the Book 
of Psalms into Anglo-Saxon verse. These poems 
were preserved orally, not only by the minstrels, 
but as exercises of memory by the monks. Uence 
the MSS. exhibit very great diversities. 

n. Anglo-Saxo>" Liteeatuee in Latin de- 
mands notice before the vernacular prose literature, 
as the latter was, for the most part, based upon tho 
former. It was the product of foreign ecclesiastical 
influence. The earliest missionaries were imbued 
with the learning of the Western Church and great 
schools were soon founded in Kent and the South, 
and afterwards in Northurabria. In the latter part 
of the seventh centurj, TUEODOEE OF TaeSUS 
became Archbishop of Canterbury, and, with his 
friend the ABBOT Apeian, taught both Greek and 
Latin literature. In the eighth century, books were 
so multiplied, that Alcuin complains to Charle- 
magne of the literary poverty of France as com- 
pared with England. He also gives an account of 
the great library at York, from which and other 
lists we can see what writers formed the taste of 
the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries. There 
was a decided preference for the Greek authors 
above the Latin. The classical poets were read, but 
with a religious suspicion, and the works most val- 
ued were those of the Fathers and the Christian 
poets, whose faults are closely imitated in the Latin 
poetry of the Anglo-Saxon churchmen. The ecclesi- 
astical taste was strengthened and the literary treas- 
ures increased by the habit of visiting Rome, which 
became frequent in the eighth century. Many 
women were celebrated for their learning. 

(1) Anglo-Latin Poetry. 

Almielm, of Sherborne, founder of the abbey of 
Malmesbury (b. about A. D. 65C, d. A. D. 709), was 
the most distinguished pupil of Adrian. His poetry 
is turgid and full of extravagant conceits. He wrote 
in hexameters Z)e Laude Virginitatis (besides a 
prose treatise on the same theme), a book of ^nig- 
mata in imitation of Symposius, and a poem on the 
Seven Cardinal Virtues. These, with a few letters, 
are all his extant works. The great prose writer 
Ai.cuiN (see below) was also fertile in Latin verse. 
His style is simpler than Aldhelm's, but less ani- 
mated, nis best poem is an Elegy on the Destruc- 
tion of Lindisfarne hy the Danes. The long poem 
on the Church of York has also some good descrip- 
tive passages. lie also wrote Epigrams, Elegies, 
and .Enigmata. Columban, Boniface, Bede, and 
i Cuthbert, wrote some Latin versos ; and, passing 

Chap. I.] 



over a few others, the list concludes, in the tenth 
century, with the Life of St. Wilfred, by FKn>i:- 
GODE, and the Life of St. Swithun by WoLbXAN. 

(21 The Latin Prose Literature of the Anglo- 
Saxons consists of religious treatises, works on sci- 
ence and education, and histories in which the ec- 
clesiastical element preponderates; but its most 
interesting remains are the letters of Alcuin and 
Boniface, for the light they throw on contemporary 
history and manners. 

(a) The period opens with some writers, who 
were not Saxons, but of the old Celtic race, which 
had preserved British Christianity, or had learned 
it anew from Ireland. Passlag over the obscure 
Histories of Gildas, son of the British King of 
Alcluyd (Dumbarton), in the sixth century, and 
Kenxils, whose work is probablj' not genuine, in 
the seventh, we come to St. Columuanus (lived 
about A. D. 54.3-C15) of Ireland, who, having joined 
the lately founded monastery at Bangor, set out 
thence at the head of a mission to the eastern parts 
of Gaul, Switzerland, and the south-west of Ger- 
many. He wrote in Latin several theological trea- 
tises, some poems, and five letters. Nearly two cen- 
turies later Ireland sent forth Joua:nnes Scotus, 
surnamed from his native laud EriGEXA (d. A. D. 
877), who settled in France, and became, by his dia- 
lectic skill and his acquaintance with the doctrines 
of Xco-Platonism, one of the founders of the philo- 
sophical sect of the Realists. The story of his com- 
ing to England on Alfred's invitation is more than 

(b) The earliest Anglo-Saxon prose writer in 
Latin is WiLFEEi) (lived A. D. 6;^-709), Archbishop 
of York and apostle of Sussex, who succeeded, after 
a troubled life, in uniting the churches of the Anglo- 
Saxon kingdoms. His works are lost ; but he de- 
Ber\'es mention as the founder of the school of learn- 
ing at York, which was fostered by Bishop Egbert 
(A. D. 678-7GG), and produced Bede and Alcuin, 
the two great names of the Anglo-Saxon Latin lit- 

The course of Bede (A. D. 673-735), surnamed 
the " Venerable," is a perfect tj-pe of the outward 
repose and intellectual activity of the monastic life, 
in its best aspect. At the age of seven he was placed 
under the teaching of Benedict Biscop, in the mon- 
astery of Wearmouth ; became a deacon at nine- 
teen, and a priest at thirty. Whether he visited 
Rome is uncertain. He only left his monastery on 
rare visits to other religious houses ; and his dying 
moments were divided between religious exercises 
and dictating the last sentences of a work which he 
just lived to finish. 

His works embrace the whole compass of the 
learning of his age. Numbering no less than forty- 
five, they may be divided into four classes : Theo- 
logical, consisting chiefly of commentaries on the 
Scriptures, pervaded by the allegorical metliod; 
Scientific Treatises, exhibiting the imperfect knowl- 
edge of science, i'roin Pliny to his own time ; Gram- 
matical Works, which display much learning; 
with some correct but lifeless Latin poems ; HiMor- 
ical Compositions, which place him in the first rank 
among writers of the middle ages. The History of 
his own Monastery and the Life of St. Cuthbcrt 
deserve mention ; but his great work is tl\e Ecclesi- 
astical History of the Anyh-Saxons from their 

first settlement in England. He used the aid of the 
most learned men of his time in collecting tlie docu- 
ments and traditions of the various kingdoms, 
which he relates with scrupulous fidelity and in a 
very pleasing style. The History was translated" 
into Anglo-Saxon by King Alfred. 

Bede was surrounded by a body of literary friends, 
as Acca and others, among whom the most distin- 
guished was Egbert, Arclibishop of York (about 
A. D. 678-7G6), the reformer of his diocese, and 
founder of the splendid library already mentioned. 
His writings are chiefly on points of discipline, and 
two of them, the Corifessionale and Pcenitentiule, 
were published in Anglo-Saxon as well as in Latin. 
St. Boniface ( Winfrid), a native of Crediton in 
Devonshire (lived about A. D. 680-755) and tlie 
apostle of Western Germany, has left a collection 
of valuable letters, amounting (with those addressed 
to him) to a hundred and six. The eighth century 
closes with the great name of Alccin (about A. D. 
735-804). He was bom at York, and, like Bede, 
was placed in a convent in his infancy. Trained in 
the school of Arclibishop Egbert, he became the 
favorite pupil of that prelate's kinsman and suc- 
cessor, Albert, on whose appointment to the arch- 
bishopric (A. D. 76G), the school was intrusted to 
Alcuin, just ordained a deacon. Eanbald, a pupil 
of Alcuin, on succeeding to the archbishopric 
(A. D. 780), sent Alcuin to Rome, and this mission 
caused his introduction to Charlemagne, at whose 
court he resided with magnificent appointments till 
A. D. 790, and again from A. D. 792 to his deatli. 
His works were commentaries, dogmatic and prac- 
tical treatises, lives of saints, and several vciy 
interesting letters. His Latin poems have been al- 
ready noticed. He is chiefly important in the His- 
tory of English Literature, as another cxami)le, like 
that of Erigcna, of what the Continent gained from 
the learning of these islands. The name of Assl:l^ 
Bishop of Sherborne (d. A. D. 910), is connected 
with a Latin history of King Alfred, of very doubt- 
ful authenticity. The renowned Dunstan (A. D. 
925-988) wrote commentaries on the Benedictine 
rule, and other works. Of his contemporary 0l)O 
(d. 9G1), we have only a single letter. A few other 
names might still be mentioned. 

in. Tlie Vernacular Anglo-Saxon Pkosr 
Literature contains few but great names. Above 
all shines that of King Alfred (A. D. 848-9(iI), 
the story of whose early training and life-long self- 
discipline needs not to be recounted here. His early 
love for the old national poetry, the growing neglect 
of Latin even by the priests, and the eager desire, 
of which he himself tells us, that the people might 
enjoy the treasures of learning collected in the 
churches for security from the invaders, urged him 
to the culture of the native tongue for popular in- 
struction. Wliile inviting over learned men to re- 
pair the decay of scholarship, the king himself set 
the example of translating existing works into the 
vernacular. Having learned Latin only late in life, 
he did not disdain the help of scholars, such as 
Bishop Asser, in clearing up grammatical diliicul- 
ties, while he brouglit to the work untiring industrj', 
great capacity of comprehending the author's gen- 
eral meaning, and sound judgment upon puints 
needing illustration. His most important transla- 
tions were those of Bede's Ecclesiastical History^ 



[Chap. I. 

the Ancient Ilhtoru of Orosius, Boethius de Conso- 
latio/ie rhiloso;ihia:, and, for tlic use of the clergy, 
the Pastorale of St. Gregory. According to Wil- 
liam of Mahnesbury, Alfred had commenced an 
Anglo-Saxon version of the Psalms shortly before 
his death. Among the works falsely attributed to 
him aid Alfred's Proverbs, a. translation of yEsop's 
Fables, and a metrical version of the Metres of 
Boethius. Slauy works were translated by the 
king's order or after hia example; for instance, 
the Dialogues of St. (Gregory, by Werfred, Bishop 
of Worcester. The new intellectualimpulse, given 
by Alfred's policy of calling foreign scholars into 
the realm, which was followed by other kings down 
to the eve of the Conquest, sustained tlie revival of 
Anglo-Saxon literature in full activity for some 

The great light of the tenth century was Alfric, 
Archbishop of Canterbury, sumamed Grammatieus 
(d. A. D. 1006), whose opposition to Romish doc- 
trines called attention to his work, and so gave an 
impulse to Anglo-Saxon studies in modern times. 
His eighty Homilies are hia chief work. lie also 
translated the Books of Moses, and wrote other the- 
ological treatises. As a grammarian he labored to 
revive the neglected study of Latin by his Latin 
Grammar (from Donatus and Priscian), his Glos- 
sary and Colloquium (a conversation book), lie 
appears as a scientific writer in the Manual of As- 
trouoni'j, if it is rightly assigned to him. He is 
oflen confounded with two other Alfrics, the name 
being common among the Anglo-Saxons. There 
was an Alfric, Abbot of Mahnesbury (d. A. D. 994), 
and an Alfric, surnamed Bata, Archbishop of York 
(d. 1051), adevoteddiscipleof the great Alfric, whose 
Grammar and Colloquium he republished, besides 
writing a life of Bishop Ethelwold (A. D. 9i^'J84). 
In the eleventh century we need only mention 
WULFSTAN, Archbishop of York (d. 1023), the 
author of some homilies. 

It remains to notice two great monuments of 
Anglo-Saxon prose literature, the Chronicle and the 
Laws. The Saxon Chronicle is a record of the his- 
tory of the people, compiled at first, as is believed, 
for Alfred, by Plcgmund, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, who brought it dowai to A. D. 891. Thence it 
was continued, as a contemporary record, to the 
end of the Anglo-Saxon period, in the middle of 
the twelfth century. It breaks off abruptly in the 
first year of Henry II. (A. D. 1154). " It is a dry 
chronological record, noting in the same lifeless 
tone important and trifling events without the 
slightest tinge of dramatic color, of criticism in 
weighing evidence, or of judgment in the selection 
of the facts narrated" (Marsh, Origin and History 
of the English Language, Lect. iii. p. lOa). This 
want of historical talent, as the same writer observes, 
prevents our learning from it much of our ancestors' 
social life, or of the practical working of their in- 

Tlfe fragments of the Anglo-Saxon Laws contain 
some as early as the reign of Ethelbert, King of 
Kent, reduced, however, to the language of a later 
age. Alfred, who began the work, saj's that, with 
the advice of his Witan, he rejected what did not 
please him. but added little of his o\<m. The work 
was then submitted to and adopted by the fVitan. 
His chief fellowers in these labors wore Athclstane, 

Ethelrcd, and Canute. (See Schmid, Oesetze der 
Angel- Sachsen, 2d ed. 1853.) 

B.— anglo-nor:wan literature. 

A.D. 10C3-iaW. 
The Norman Conquest had both a destructive and 
a reconstructive influence on the literature of the 
country. The ordinance, forbidding the Saxon 
clergy to aspire to any ecclesiastical dignitj', con- 
fined the literary activity that was left to the mon- 
asteries, except in the case of those who were will- 
ing to adapt themselves to the new state of things. 
The Anglo-Saxon learning gradually died out by 
the middle of the twelfth centuiy; its chief work 
being the completion of the Saxon Chronicle in the 
monastery of Peterborough. The chief works o< 
learning were composed in Latin ; while for lighte! 
compositions the English adopted the language of 
their conquerors. On the other hand, the Normans 
uitrodueed a new and most potent element of intel- 
lectual activity. The fifty years preceding the Con- 
quest had witnessed a great revival of learning on 
the Continent, originating from the Arabs, who Isad 
themselves become imbued with the Greek learning 
of the conquered East. Thus the revival of letters 
in the eleventh century, like the brighter revival in 
the fifteenth, owed its source to the ancient Greeks; 
but with this great difference : while, in the latter 
case, inspiration was drawn from the great poets 
and orators, the Arabs were chiefly attracted by tiie 
physical, logical, and metaphysical works of the 
school of Aristotle. The Aristotelian logic >and 
spirit of systematizing were eagerly applied to the- 
ology, especially in France. The monasteries of 
Caen and Bee, in Normandy, became distinguished 
seats of the new science; and in them were trained 
Lanfeano and A>;GrLM, the first great lights of 
Anglo-Norman learning. Indeed Anselm is often 
regarded as thefounder of the Scholastic PbSiosophy, 
which was the fruit of the new movement. But he 
is only a connecting link. The old method of 
treating theologj', followed by the Fathers, was 
based on the foundation of faith in the dogmatic 
statements of Scriptui-e. The scholastic philosophy 
aspired to establish a complete system of truth l)y a 
chain of irrefragable reasoning. Anselm only ap- 
plied its methods to the establishment of separate 
doctrines; while AHELARD, breaking away from 
the old foundation of faith, which Anselm tacitly 
assumed, made the same methods the instnunents 
of scepticism. He was met by St. Bef.xakd, who 
took his stand upon the old patristic ground. 
" Scholasticism," says Mr. Arnold {Eng. Lit. p. 15), 
" made a false start in the school of Bee; its true 
commencement dates a little later, and from Paris." 
Its founder was PETER LOiMBAKD, called the 
" Master of the Sentences," from his Four Books of 
Sentences, published in A. D. 1151. Thus the same 
age produced St. Bernard, the last of the Fathers, 
and Peter Lombard, the first of the schoolmen. In 
England there is no trace of the new learning be- 
fore the Conquest, though she had helped to prepare 
for it by sending forth such men as Erigena and 
Alcuin. Erigena, indeed, as early as the ninth 
century, had employed philosophical methods in 
religious discussion; but he was a Platonist; the 
schoolmen were .^iristotelians. The new learning 
not only entered in the train of tlie Conqueror, but 

CfeAP. I.] 



was fostered by his personal influence. William, 
and nearly all his successors, down to Henry III., 
were themselves well educated, and patronized lit- 
erature and art. The displacement of the Saxon 
bishops and abbots seems to have arisen from con- 
tempt for their illiteracy, as well as from political 
Uiotives ; and tlieir places were filled by the most 
learned of the Norman ecclesiastics, as Archbishops 
Lanfranc and Anselm, HERMAN, Bishop of Salis- 
bury, who founded a great library, GODFBET, Prior 
of St. Swithiu's at Wincliestor, who wrote Latin 
epigrams in the style of Martial, and GEOFFREY, 
an eminent scholar from the University of Paris, 
who founded a school at Dmistable, and acted, with 
his scholars, a drama of his own on the Life of St. 
Catharine. Numerous as were the Saxon monas- 
teries, no less than five hundred and fifly-seven new 
religious houses were founded, from the Conquest 
to the reign of John. All of these, as well as the 
cathedrals, had schools for *hose destined to the 
church, and gcnei-al scliooli were founded in the 
towns and villagck. The twelfth ce> tury witnessed 
the foundation of our two great L niversities ; but 
they were at first regardet, rather as portals to tiic 
coutineutal Universities, to which English subjects 
resorted in great numbers, especially to Paris, 
where they formed one of the four " nations." Clas- 
sical learning revived at the Universities, and was 
extended from the Latin poets to Greek and even 
Hebrew, in the thirteenth century, chiefly by the 
influence of RouEBX Grosseteste, Bishop of 
Lincoln. About the same time, the invention of 
the art of making paper from linen rags more than 
niade up for tlie growing lack of parchment, and 
gave a new mechanical impulse to literature. 

Meauxhilc, the tenacity with which the English 
language held its ground ainoug tlie common peo- 
ple, caused the ultimate fruit of these movements 
to be shown in the formation of a truly Engliifh 
literature in the thirleentli and fourteentli centuries. 

It remains to mention the classes of literature 
and tiie chief writers of tlie period. Literature 
being cultivated almost entirely by the clergy and 
tlie minstrels, nearly all the prose works were in 
Latin, and the poetry in Norman-French; exclu- 
sive, however, of the contemporaneous Semi-Saxon 
literature (see below, C). An age of violence and 
oppression permitted but little popular literature, 
in tiie proper sense. 

ERATURE IN Latin. — 1. Theologians and School- 
men. — Lanfranc (b. A. D. 1005, d. A. D. 1089) 
was a Lombard of Pavia, where, after studying in 
other Italian Universities, he practised as a pleader. 
Removing to Normandy, he opened a school at 
Avranches (A. D. 1085 or later), whicli became a 
centre of elegant Latinity. In A. D. 1042 he sud- 
denly joined the small abbey of Bee; was elected 
prior, and opei\ed a school, which soon surpassed 
that of Avranelies. He soon found a wider field for 
his ambition as tlie counsellor of Duke William; 
and being sent by him on a Tuission to Rome, he 
distinguished liimself by defending the doctrine of 
transubstantiation, against Berengarius of Tours. 
In A. D. lOoG (the year of the Conquest), William 
made him abbot of his new monastery of St. 
Stephen at Caen, and in 1070 lie became Archbishop 
of Cauteibury, in place of the deposed Saxon prel- 


ate Stigand. His reform of the Anglo-Saxon 
Church and severity towards its clergy concern us 
here less than his invitations to learned foreigners, 
whereby he founded a new school of science and 
literature in England. His great work was the 
Treatise against Berengarius (written A. D. 1079 
or 1080) ; he also wrote Commentaries on Scrip- 
tm-e, and Letters. Many of Lanfrancls works are 
lost. Anseem (b. A. D. 10;33, d. 1100) was also an 
Italian, of Aosta. His eagerness for learning led 
him to Bee, where he succeeded Lanfranc as prior, 
and afterwards became abbot in place of Herluin 
(A. D. 1078). Most of his works were composed 
here, while he gained the highest reputation for 
piety, and taught diligently. On his second visit 
to England, in A. D. 101>2, the voice of the bishopa, 
and barons forced William Rufus to appoint him 
as the successor of Lanfranc, who had been dead 
four years. Anselm's troubles in the primacy be- 
long to history rather than literature; but amidst 
them all he continued to write and teach. It is un- 
necessary to enumerate his many works, which 
are less important than his influence on the learn- 
ing of his age. They consist of theological and 
dialectic treckises, homilies, devout meditations, 
and letters. His claims to a share in the Hym- 
nology of the church are doubtful. Besides many 
distinguished prelates, only inferior in fume to 
these two, some of whom are mentioned above, we 
may name two writers of more general literature, 
John of Salisbury (died Bishop of Chartres iu 
A. D. 1182), an Englishman, who wrote a treatise De 
JS'ugis Curiulinm et Ve.stigiis riulofophorwn, be- 
sides Latin verses ; and PETER OF Blois (d. after 
A. D. 1108), whose letters throw much light on the 
characters and manners of his time ; he wrote many 
other works, and an interesting poem on Richard's 
misfortunes in Palestine. The English Schoolmen 
were lor the most part of the Anglo-Saxon race, but 
lived chiefly abroad. Alex^vnber Haleb, "the 
Irrefragable Doctor," a native of Gloucestershire, the teacher of St. Bonavcnture. He lived and 
taught abroad, ijnd died at Paris, A. D. 12-15. Jo- 
UANNES Duns Sootus, "the Subtle Doctor," 
taught at Oxford and Paris, and died at Bologna, 
A. D. 1308. WiELiAM of Occam (b. A. D. lyoo, 
d. A. D. 1347, at Munich), " the Invincible Doctor," 
spent most of his life at the court of the German 
Emperor, whose cause he maintained against the 
Pope. Thougli the pupil of the great Realist, Duns 
Scotus, he was the head of the school of the iVonit- 
nali-'its, who held that our abstract ideas are merely 
general expressions of thought, not necessarily cor- 
resipouding to real existences. At» Oxford, the 
Franciscan friar, Roger Bacon (about A. D. 1214- 
1202), by his devotion to physical science, gained 
the reputation of a sorcerer, while dimly anticipat- 
ing some of the great inventions of later times, 
among which is thought to have been that of gun- 
powder. His Oj-itis Majus is an inquiry into "tlie 
routi of wisdom ; " namely, language, mathematics, 
optics, and experimental science. That he hud 
begun to cast oft" the scholastic trammels, and al- 
ready to question nature in the spirit of his great 
namesake, is shown by his saying, on a disputed 
fact in physics, "I have tried it, and it is not the 
fact, but the very reverse." 
2. Latin Chronicles of paat and contemporary 



[Chap. I. 

history had already been commenced before the 
Conquest. Tlieir writers were churchmen, and 
mostly of the Saxon race; and, with a few excep- 
tions, they confined tliemselves to the history of 
England. Passing over the more than doubtful 
work ascribed to Lngulviius, Abbot of Croyland 
(A. D. 1075-1109), and its continuation (to A. D. 
1118), we have a History of the Xorman Conquest 
by William of Poitiers, a follower of the Con- 
queror, extending from A. D. 1035 to A. D. 1067 ; 
but the beginning and end are lost ; we know that it 
came down to A. D. 1070. FLORENCE OF WORCES- 
TER (d. A. D. 1118) compiled a chronicle from the 
Creation to the year of his death, chiefly from the 
Saxon Chronicle, and the Chronology of Marianus 
Scotus, a German monk. Eaumer'S (d. A. D. 
11:^4) history is chiefly a monument to the fame of 
Anselm. Orbericus Vitalis (b. A. D. 1075, near 
Slirewsburj-, d. after A. D. 1143), wrote an Ecclesi- 
astical History in thirteen books, from the Creation 
to the latter year. The best of all these chroni- 
clers is William of Malmesuury (about A. D. 
1140), who dedicated his history to Robert, Earl of 
Gloucester, natural son of lleury I. It is in two 
parts; the Gesta Begum Anylorum, in five books, 
from the landing of Ilengist and Horsa to A. D. Il:i0, 
and the Historia Novella, in three books, down to 
A. D. 1142. Tlie work is written in the spirit and 
manner of Bede. He also wrote a Life of Wulfstan, 
a history of the English Bishops, and other works. 
His contemporary, Hensy OF Huntingdon (d. 
after A. D. 1154), also a worthy follower of Bede, 
though inferior to William, wrote a History of 
England, from the landing of Julius Cajsar to the 
accession of Henry 11. (A. D. 1154). To the eight 
books of the history he added his other works, 
forming four more, the last consisting of his Latin 
poems. Geoffrey of Monmouth (d. A. D. 
1154) also inscribed to Robert, Earl of Gloucester, 
his Historia Britonum, which professes to be a 
translation of an old British chronicle brought over 
from Brittany by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, in 
nine books: it relates the legendary story of tlie 
British kings, from Brutus, the great-grandson of 
yEueas, to the death of Cadwallader, son of Cad- 
wallo, in A. D. 688. The lively Welshman! keeps 
his country's traditions free from those rationaliz- 
ing attempts, which " spoil a good poem, without 
making a good history;" and he provided for the 
romance writers some of their best stories, among 
the rest, that of Arthur and the Knights of the 
Round Table. His work was abridged by Alfred 
or Alukex> of Beverlky, and continued by 
Caradoc of Lancarvan to A. D. 1154. The 
latter work is only known in a Welsh version, 
which has been translated into English. Another 
learned Welshman, Giraldus Camisrensis 
((ierald Barry, b. about A. D. 1146, d. A. D. 12-2S), 
wrote topographical works on Wales and Ireland, 
an account of his own life, and many other works, 
including Latin poems. He was about the most 
vigorous and versatile author of his time. 

AiLRED OF P-IEYAUX, in Yorkshire (b. A. D. 
lio;), d. A. D. 1106), has left an admirable account 
of the Battle of the Standard (A, D. 1138), and 
several theological works, Roger de Hoveden 
(i. c, of Xlowden, in Yorkshire) continued Bcde's 
History from A. D. 732 to A, D. 1202, transcribing 

many documents of great historical value. Geof- 
frey UE ViNSAUF wrote an important work on 
the Crusade, in which he followed Richard Cu;ur 
de Lion. Matthew Paris (a monk of St. Al- 
ban's) wTote his celebrated Historia Major, from 
the Norman Conquest to the year of his death, 
A. D. 1259. Much of it consists of open plagiarisms 
from the Chronicle, or Flores Historiaruin, of 
Roger de Wendover, also a monk of St. Al- 
bau's, who died Prior of Belvoir, May 6th, A. D. 
1237. This work extends from the Creation to the 
nineteenth year of Henry III. (A. D. 12.^)), and the 
latter part is very valuable. It was published by 
the Rev. Henry O. Coxe, for the English Historical 
Society, 5 vols. 8vo., London, 1841-1844. Another 
monk of St. Alban's, William Risiianger, con- 
tinued the work of Matthew Paris, probably to the 
fifteenth of Edward II. (A. D. 1.322), but the latter 
part of his book is lost. Nicholas Tritet wrote 
an excellent history, from Stephen to Edward I. 
(A. D. 1135-1307), which was edited by Mr. T. 
Hog, London, 1845. From these two works was 
compiled the Chronicle of St. Alban's, which is 
plagiarized (like Roger of Wendover by Matthew 
Paris) in the Historia Anglicana of WalSINGHAM, 
published by Air. Riley, 1863. Another chronicler 
of the 14th century isRALl'll or Ranulph Higden, 
a Benedictine monk of St. Werburgh at Chester, 
where he died at a great age, about A. D. 1370. 
His Polychronicon was a universal History in 
seven books. Only the part preceding the Norman 
Conquest was printed in Gale's Scriptores A'K. 
(0.xon. 1691, fol.); but John de Trevisa's English 
tj-anslation of the whole work, completed before 
the end of the century, was printed by Caxton, who 
added an eighth book, in A. D. 1482. Some author- 
ities ascribe to Higden the Chester Mysteries, per- 
formed in a: D. 1328. The History of Samson, 
Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds (A. D. 1173-1202), by 
JocELiN OF Brakelond, Only recently discov- 
ered, has furnished the materials for Mr. Carlyle's 
vivid picture of the old abbot and his age {I'ast and 
Present, 184;3). 

Besides the writings of these chroniclers (and sev- 
eral almost as important might be named), we have 
a mass of public rolls and registers, beginning with 
Domesday Book ; but these official documents hard- 
ly belong to literature. 

3. The frequent resort of Englishmen to the Uni- 
versity of Bologna gave an impulse to the study of 
Civil Law, which excited the emulation of the great 
masters of the Common Law, and so produced, 
towards the end of the twelfth century, the first 
great treatise on the laws of England, the Tractutus 
de I,egibus et Consuetadinihus Anglias, by the chief 
justiciary, Ranulf de GLAN^^L (d. A. D. 1190). 

4. The Letters of the leading churchmen of the 
age, besides the value of their matter, att'ord many 
good specimens of Latin composition. Beginning 
with Lanfranc and Anselm the series comes down 
to Thomas a Becket and Stephen Langton; 
but by far the most valuable for their matter, and 
the most interesting for their literary excellence, 
are those of John of Salisbury and Peter of Blois, 
which reveal to us mucii both of the political and 
the scholastic history of the latter half of the twelfth 
century. The letters of ROBERT Grosseteste 
have been edited by Mr. Luard, 1861 ; and the works 

Chap. I.] 



of John of Salii jury are thoroughly analyzed in 
the monograph «f Dr. Schaarschinidt, Leipzig, 18(j2. 
5. Latiti Poeti y was cultivated as an elegant ac- 
complishment bf the men of learning, as Lawrence 
of Durham, Henry of Huntingdon, John of Salis- 
bury, John de Hauteville, and others. But a more 
natural, though irregular school was formed under 
the influence of the minstrels, the application of 
whose accentual system of verse to Latin, in defiance 
of quantity, gave rise to the Leonitie Verse, which 
was used for epigrams, satires, and also for the 
hymns of the Church. The term Leonine describes 
specifically verses rhymed as well as accentual; but 
both forms are common. Leonine verse was natu- 
ralized in Europe by the end of the eleventh century. 
It was applied to hymnology by St. Bernard, St. 
Thomas Aquinas, and Pope Innocent III. ; and 
every one is familiar with some of the finest of 
these hymns, as the Dies Irse and Stahat Hater. 
(See the Hymni Ecclesix, Oxon. 18.38. A curious 
instance of its use in England is furnished by the 
epitaph on Bede, the first line of which 

" Contiuet htec theca Beds venerabilis ossa," 
was transformed by later ingenuity into 

" Continet hac fossa Bedw venerabilis ossa." 
A further stage of license is seen in the frivolous 
itacaronic Poetry, which abounds not only in 
Latin words of the strangest formation, but in mix- 
tures of diflerent languages, as in the following 
example, in Latin, French, and English, belonging 
to the early part of Edward II.'s reign (Marsh, 

" Quant honme deit parleir, videat quae verba lo- 
Sen covent aver, ne stultior inveniatur. 
Quando quis loquitur, bote rcxoitn reste therynne, 
Derisum patitur, aut lutcl so shall he wynne; — 

and so on. " This confusion of tongues," adds Mr. 
Marsh, "led very naturally to the co^rniption of 
tliem all, and consequently none of them were 
written or spoken as correctly as at the periad when 
they were kept distinct." 

But the LeoniuCj as indeed also the regular verse. 
Was chiefly used for satire, especially by the secular 
clergy and by laymen against the regular clergy 
Bud the vices of the age. Here is one example : — 

" Mille annis jam peractis 
Nulla tides est in pactis; 
Mel in ore, verba lactis, 
Fel in corde, fraus in factis." 

It was employed also for all manner of light and 
popular pieces. The earliest known writer in this 
atyle was Hilaeius, a disciple of Abelard, and 
irobably an Englishman, who flourished about 
A. D. 1125. A mass of such poetry, probably by 
/arious writers, is ascribed to Waltek JMapes, or 
Map, Archdeacon of Oxford under Henry II., 
under the general title of Confessio Goliai, — Golias 
being the type of loose livers, especiafly among the 
clergy. Map also wrote in regular Latin verse, and 
in prose De Nugis Curialium. He was an author, 
too, in Anglo-Norman poetry and prose, chiefly on 
the legends of Arthur. Altogether he seems to have 
been one of the most active minds of the age. 

The regular Latin writers were up in arms against 
the Leonines. ,Geoffee¥ Vinsauf, already no- 
ticed as a chronicler, addressed to Pope Innocent 
HL a regular poem, De Nova toetria, of great 

merit, and containing interesting allusions to con- 
temporary history. His overstrained lament for 
Richard's death is satirized by Chaucer even while 
addressing him as 

" O Gaufride, dear maister soverain." 

One of the last and best examples of the regular 
Latin poetry is the work of JoSEPiius I8CA^'^S 
(Joseph of Exeter, d. about A. D, 1210) De Bello 
Trojano, which was so popular as to be used in 
schools with the classic poets. He also wrote a 
Latin poem entitled Antiocheis, on Richard's ex- 
pedition to Palestine. But the whole style was 
doomed to extinction before a more vigorous rival 
than the Leonines — the vernacular poetry which 
sprang up in imitation of the French minstrelsy — 
and it had almost disappeared by the middle of the 
thirteenth century. 

n. The Anglo-Nokaian Fkench Litera- 
TUKE was, as already observed, chiefly in poetry, 
and the production of lavmen, whether the pro- 
fessional minstrels, or knights and even kings, who 
deemed it a gentlemanly accomplishment to sing as 
well as act the deeds of chivalry. RicnAKD CCEUB 
DE Lion (d. A. D. 1190) was the type of the latter 
class; and the style he cultivated and patronized 
was that of the Troubadors (see the text). Every 
one knows the legend of the discovery of the place 
of his captivity by his tenson with the minstrel 
Blondel, and his sirvente against his barons, com- 
posed in prison, has come down to us with a few 
other fragments.* (See the great work of Ray- 
nouard on Provencal Poetry). But the great mass 
of the poetry which the Normans brought in was 
that of the Trouveres. It may be .arranged in fom* 
classes:— (1.) Bomances, relating chiefly to these 
four cycles of legends:— CViarZenta&ne and his 
Paladins, of whom the Norman minstrel Taillefer 
is said to have sung at Hastings ; f Ai-thur and his 
Knights, founded on the legends of Wales and Brit- 
tany; Coeur de Lion, his exploits and snft'erings; 
and Alexander of Macedon, the chief poem of this 
cycle (the Alexandre'is, A. D. 1184) giving its name 
to i\xQ Alexandrine Verse;— {2.) The Fabliaux, or 
Metrical Tales of Real Life, often derived from the 
East; — (3.) Satires, of which the Esopian fable 
was a common form, as in that tale common to 
Europe, Reynard the Fox; and (4.) The Metrical 
Chronicles. Of these last a most important exam- 
ple is the Brvt d' Angleterre of Wace (d. after 
A. D. 1171), who also wrote, in French, the Roman 
de Rou (Romu7tce of Rollo). His Brut, borrowed 
from Geoffrey of Monmouth, became the source of 
the Brut of Layamon (see below). Though this 
French poetry is of great importance in our litera- 
ture, as it furnished both subjects and models for 
later English poets, there are few of its writers 
whose names require special mention. We have 
religious and moral poems in French of a very 
early date ; and the universally accomplished ROB- 
EBT Geosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, wrote in 
this as well as other styles. Geoffeey PE Ytn- 
SAur composed metrical chronicles in French as 
well as Latin ; and he had a rival in Benoit DE 

* The sirvente was a piece for one performer, the 
teiwon a duet between two. 

t There is a question, however, whether his song 
wat; of the Paladin Roland, or of RoUo, the founder 
of <he Norman line. 



[Chap. I. 

St. Matte (fl. A. D. U80), author of tlie Romance 
of Troy and Chronicle of the Dukes of Normnndy. 
Geoffbey Gaimak (about A. D. 11-18) wrote a 
Chronicle of the Anglo-Saxon Kings. TilOGOLD 
-was the author of the Roman de Roland, and a 
Roman d' Alexandre \s ascribed to TnOMAS OF 
Kent, who is variously placed in the twelfth and 
fourteenth centuries. The Roman de la Rose, imi- 
tated by Chaucer, is the earliest French work of 
tlie thirteenth century. Other favorite romances 
were Havelok tlie Dane, the Gest of King Hoi-n, 
Bevis of Ilamjiton, and Ovy of Warwick. Most of 
the authors of these works were native Englishmen, 
though they wrote in French, which had become 
ahuost the sole vehicle of popular literature. 

The Prose Versions of the Romances in Norman 
French were written chiefly by Englishmen. The 
most important series was farmed by those of 
Arthur, containing the Roman de St. Oraal (or 
Holy Cup), the Roman de Merlin, the Roman de 
Lancelot, the Quite du St. Graal, and the Roman 
de la Mort Arthus ; with a sequel, in two parts, the 
Roman de Tristan {or Tristrcm). The chief writer 
■was Walter Mates (alt-eady mentioned); but 
the St. Oraal, Merlin, and second part of Tristan, 
•were by ROBEKT DE Bakkon, and the first part of 
the TrUtan by LtJCES de Gast. 

A digest of these romances, made by Sir Thos. 
Malory, who was alive under Edward FV., has been 
edited by Mr. Wright, from the last black-letter 
edition of 16.'34, under the title of " La Mort d'Ar- 
thure. The History of King Arthur and the 
Knights of the Round Table," London, 1858. 

Excepting some versions of portions of Scripture, 
these are the only important works in Anglo-Nor- 
man prose, till we come to the grand Chronicle of 
Sire Jean Froissaet, the liveliest picture which 
an imaginative historian ever drew of events wit- 
nessed for the most part by himself. Froissart was 
bom at Valenciennes about A. D. 1337, but his 
Chronicle extends over the whole reigns of Edward 
III. and Richard II. (A. D. 1326-1400). He was 
also a great poet, and on his last vi&it to England 
(1^!) he presented his poetical works to Xing 
Bichard n. 

A. D. 1150-12.50. 
The end of the Saxon Clironicle marks the close 
of the old Anglo-Saxon Language, as well as Liter- 
eture ; for the chronicler does not throw down his 
pen before he has begun to confuse his grammar 
and to corrupt his vocabulary with French words. 
The language dies out in literature, to appear again 
as almost a new creation, the basis of our English, 
but not at first in a finished form. The state of 
transition occupies two eentunes, fVom about the 
accession of Henry II. (ll.'H) to the middle of the 
reign of Edward III. (1350), when Chaucer rose. 
The compositions of this age can hardly be divided 
by any clear line of demarcation ; but tlie first of 
the two centuries, to the middle of Henry III.'s 
reigii, may be conveniently assigned to the Semi- 
Saxon period, the second to the Old English. The 
writers in both dialects were for the most part 
translators and imitators of the Norman poets; and 
their works may be assigned to the same four heads. 
There are, however, a few more original fragments, 

such as the Song of Canute, as he rowed past Ely, 
recorded by the monk of Ely, who wrote about 
A. D. 1166; the Hymn of ST. GOOKIO (d. A. D. 
1170), and the Prophecy, said by various chroni- 
clers to have been set up at Here (A. D. 1189). But 
three chief works may be chosen as most character- 
istic of the language of the Serai-Saxon period. 

(1.) Lat.VMON'B Brut, ot Chronicle of Britain, of 
which there are two texts, one much earlier than 
the other. The title of " the English Ennius," for- 
merly applied to Robert of Gloucester, may now 
fairly be transferred to Layamon. He tells us tliat 
he was a priest of Ernley, near Redstone, on the 
Severn (probably Lower Arley), and that he com- 
piled his work partly from a book in English by 
St. Bede, which can only mean the translation of the 
Historia Ecclesiastica ascribed to Alfred, partly 
from one in Latin by St. Albin and Austin, and 
partly from one made by a FreacJi clerk, named 
Wace, and presented to Eleanor, queen of Henry 
II. He seems, however, to have followed only Bede 
in the story of Pope Gregory and the English slaves 
at Rome ; his second authority appears to be but a 
confused reference to the Latin text of the Historia 
Ecclesiastica; and his work was really founded 
upon the Brut of Wace, already noticed. This he 
amplified from 15,300 lines to 32,250, partly by para- 
phrasing, partly by inserting speeches and other 
compositions, such as the Dream of Arthur, which 
show much imaginative power, and partly bj' the 
addition of many legends, from Welsh and other 
sources not used by Geofi'rey of Monmouth, lie 
makes several allusions to works in English which 
are nov/ lost. The date of the completion of the 
work, usually assigned to the latter years of Henry 
II., should probably be brought below A. D. 1200, 
after John's accession. The style of the work beara 
witness to Norman influence, both in the structure 
of the verse and the manner of the narrative, but 
not nearly so much as might have been expected 
from the translator of a French original. The 
earlier text has not fifty words of French origin, 
and both texts only about ninety. " We find pre- 
served," says Sir F. Madden, " in many passages 
of Lay anion's poem the spirit and stjdeof the earlier 
Anglo-Saxon writers. No one can read his de- 
scription of battles without being reminded of the 
Ode on Atlirelstan's victory at Brunanburgh." At^er 
noticing resemblances in grammar and languages, 
he adds, " A foreign scholar and poet (Gmndtvig), 
versed both in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian 
literature, has found Layamon's beyond compar- 
ison the most lofty and animated in its style, at 
every moment reminding the reader of the splendid 
phraseology of jVnglo-Saxon verse. It may also be 
added, that the colloquial character of much of the 
work renders it pccidiarly valuable as a monument 
of the language, since it serves to convey to us, in aU 
probability, the current speech of the writer's time." 
{Preface, pp. xxiii., xxiv.) His verse also retains 
the alliterative structure of the Anglo-Saxon poetry, 
mingled with the rhyming couplets of the French 
the former predominating. Besides alliteration, 
which consists in the sameness of initial consonants, 
Layamon uses the kindred de^'ice of assonance, 
that is, the concurrence of syllables containing the 
same vowel. The rhyming couplets are founded 
(as Dr. Guest has shown, Bister^/ of EngUsh 

Chap. I.] 



Rhythms, vol. ii., pp. 114 foil.) on the Anglo-Saxon 
rhythms of four, five, six, or seven accents, those 
of five and six being the most frequent. The ira- 
portaat bearing of Layanion's dialect on the history 
of the formation of the English language is fully 
discussed by Sir F. Madden {/'re/ace, pp. xxv.- 
xxviii.), who concludes that " the dialects of the 
•western, southern, and midland counties contrib- 
uted together to form the language of the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries, and conseciuently to lay 
the foundation of modern English. To the histor- 
ical student the work is important as the last and 
fullest form of the old Celtic traditions concerning 
early British history. (Layamon's Brut, !fc., with 
a Literal Translation, Xotes, and a Grammatical 
Glossary. By Sir Frederick Jladden, K. H. Pub- 
lished by the Soc. of Ant., 3 vols., 1847.) 

(2.) 17ie Ancren Riwle (the Rule of Female 
Anchorites, i. e. Nuns) a code of monastic precepts, 
drawn up in prose by an unknown author, about 
the end of the twelfth century or beginning of the 
thirteenth, and edited for the Camden Society by 
the Rev. James Morton, 1853, is also most valuable 
for the history of our language. Its proportion of 
French words is about four times tliat of Layanion ; 
the English is rude and the spelling uncouth. 

(3.) The Onmilum is so called by its author after 
his own name, OiiM or Orjiin. It was a series of 
homilies in verse on the Lessons from the New 
Testament in the Church Service, on an immense 
scale. The extant portion contains nearly 10,000 
liues (or rather couplets) of fifteen syllables, only 
ditfering from tlie "conunon service metre" by 
ending with an unaccented syllable, and entirely 
free from the Anglo-Saxon alliteration. Apart 
from tlie peculiar system of spelling, to which the 
autlior attaches great importance, and which de- 
serves study, its language dift'ers far less than Laya- 
mon's from the English of the present day. Written 
in the east or north-east (perhaps near Peterborough) 
the Ormulum occupies in the Anglian literature a 
place answering to that of the Brut in the Saxon; 
and it tends to prove that the former dialect was 
the first to throw oft the old inflections. The work 
only exists in one MS. (in the Bodleian Library), 
which is thought to be the autograph; its hand- 
writing, ink, and material, seem to assign it to the 
earlier part of the thirteenth century. The charac- 
ter of the language, and tlie regular rliythm of the 
verse, however, lead some to place it decidedly 
after the middle of tlie thirteenth century, and 
therefore in the Old English period. 

The versification seems to be modelled on the 
contemporary Latin poetry. The language has a 
Buiall admixtuie of Latin ecclesiastical words, with 
scarcely a trace of Norman French. " I am much 
disposed to believe," says Mr. Marsh {Origin and 
History, Sre., p. 179), "that the spelling of the 
Onnulum constitutes as faithful a representation of 
tlie oral English of its time as any one work could 
be at a period of great confusion of speech." The 
work has been edited with Notes and a Glossary, by 
R. M. White, D. D., 2 vols., Oxf. 18o2. 

Other works in Semi-Saxon that have been 
printed are the Homily of St. Edmund, in Thorpe's 
A II akcta, the Bestiary and /'/•orerfts falsely ascribed 
to King Alfred, in the Reliquiie Antiqiue, the Ad- 
dress ofx.he Haul to the Body, printed by Sir Thomas 

Phillipps in 1838, and reprinted by Mr. Singer, iu 
1845; and the Legend of St. Caihaiine, edited by 
iVIr. Alortou for the Abbotsford Club, in 1841. 

A. D. 1250-1350. 

By the middle of the reign of Henry IU. the lan- 
guage finally lost those inflectional and other pecu- 
liarities which distinguish the Anglo-Saxon frum 
the English; but it retains archaisms which suf- 
ficiently distinguish it from the language of the 
present day to justify the title of Old English. 

Some regard the short proclamation of Henry 
m., in A. D. 1258, as the earliest monument of Old 
English, while others consider it as Semi-Saxoa. 
It is printed and fully discussed by Marsh ( Origin 
and History, Sfc, pp. 189, foil.). The Siirtees I'salter 
stands also on the line dividing the two periods, 
being probably not later than A. D. 1250. 

Among the chief literary works of this period is 
the metrical Chronicle of ROBEET OF Gl.OUCES- 
TEE, from the legendary age of Brutus to the close 
of Henry III.'s reign. Tlie latter part, at all events, 
must have been written after A. D. 1297. The ear- 
lier part closely follows GeoftVey of Jlonmouth; 
but the old prose clironicler is more truly poeti-jal 
than his metrical imitator. The verse is the long 
line (or couplet) of fourteen syllables, divisible into 
eight and six; its movement is rough and inhar- 
monious. The Chronicle was printed from incor- 
rect MSS., by Hearne, 2 vols. 8vo., Oxou., 1724; and 
this edition was reprinted in London, 1810. Short 
works by Robert of Gloucester, on the Martyrdom 
of Thomas a and the Life of St. Brandan, 
were printed by the Percy Society in 1845. A col- 
lection of Lives of the Saints is also attributed to 
this author, whose works, though of small literary 
merit, are valuable for the light they throw on the 
progress of the English language. 

On a still larger scale is the metrical chronicle of 
Robert Manmtsg, or Robeet ok Beu^xe, the 
last considerable work of the Old English period. 
It is in two parts. The first, translated from the 
Brut of Wace, reaches to the death of Cadwallader; 
the second, ft-om the Anglo-Norman of Peter do 
Langtoft, comes down to the death of Edward I. 
(A. D. i;307). The second part only has been pub- 
lished, with the editions of Robert of Gloucester 
mentioned above. The work is evidently an imita- 
tion of Robert's, and of about ecjual literary merit. 
The language is a step nearer to modern English, 
the most important changes being the use of s for 
th in the third person singular, and the introduction 
of nearly the present forms of the feminine personal 
pronoun. The verse is smoother than that of Rob- 
ert of Gloucester. The first part is in the eight- 
syllable line of Wace; the second is partly in tlip 
same metre, and partly in the Alexandrine, the 
heroic measure of the age. 

Far more interesting in themselves are the popular 
poems of this age, translated or imitated tor tho 
most part from the French, and belonging to the 
same classes of Romances, Fabliaux, and Satires. 
But there are some ballads and songs of genui:ia 
native origin, as early as the middle of the thir- 
teenth century. Such are the story of the Norfolk 
peasant-boy, [Villy Orice ; the song beginning 
"Sumer is i-cunien iu," the oldest to which th« 



[Chap. I. 

notes are added, and many of the pieces (including 
political ballads) printed by Warton, Percy, Ritson, 
and Wriglit 

One of the most pleasing of these poems is the 
Owl and Nightingale, a dispute between the two 
birds about their powers of song, consisting of 
about 1800 verses in rhymed octosyllabic metre. 

The satirical poem, called the Land of Cockapne, 
■which Warton placed before the reign of Henry 11., 
is at least as late as A. D. 1300, and is clearly traced 
to a French original. It is somewhat doubtfully 
ascribed, with other poems, to BIiCHAEL OF KiL- 
DAKE, the first Irishman who wrote verses in Eng- 
lish. It is a satire upon the monks. That the 
Jlletrical Romances should have been translated 
from the French, is a natural result of the fact, that 
French was the language of popular literatiu-e for 
some generations after the Conquest. Many of the 
legends were, indeed, British and Anglo-Saxon; 
but this may be accounted for by the affinity of the 
Britons and Armoricans, and the close connection 
between the Norman and the later Anglo-Saxon 
kings. Nor is it probable that the Trouvhrea should 
have missed many of these legends. Their poetry 
at first amused the leisure and enlivened the ban- 
qi»ets of the conquerors; but, as the two races 
became one, and as the Anglo-Saxon tongue died 
out, they began to be translated into the new- 
formed language of the English people. The most 
popular of these, such as Havelok, Sir Tnstram, 
Sir Gawaine, Kyng Horn, King Alesaunder, and 
Kichard Ccettr de Lion, may be referred to the 
beginning of Edward I.'s reign. They are fol- 
lowed by a series of poems by unknown authors, 
far too numerous to mention, down to and consid- 
erably below the age of Chaucer, many of which 
■re printed in the collections mentioned below. 
The change, by which these English Metrical 
Bomances superseded tbe French originals, msy be 

referred to the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth 
their popularity, besides being divided with the 
prose romances, yielded, at least among the educated 
classes, to the regular poetry of Chaucer and his 
school ; but they only ceased to be generally written 
after the beginning of the sixteenth. It was not till 
three hundred years later that Sir Walter Scott re- 
vived the taste for a kind of poetry, similar in form, 
but appealing to very different sentiments. Among 
the Minor I'oems, other than Romances, are many 
imitations of the French Fabliniuc, or Tales of 
Common Life. The Satires, both political and 
ecclesiastical, undoubtedly helped the progress of 
freedom under Henry III. and his successors, and 
prepared the way for Wicklift'e, if they do not 
rather exhibit a state of popular feeling demanding 
such a teacher. 

The chief authorities for these four periods are 
Wright, Biographia Britannica Literaria. Vol. I. 
The Anglo-Saxon I'eriod, Lond. 1842; Vol. II. 
The Anglo-Norman Period, Lond. 1816; Percy, 
Beliqties of Ancient English Poetry, first published 
in 1765; Warton, History of English Poetry, 1774, 
edited by Price, 3 vols. 8vo., Lond. 1840; Tyr- 
whitt, Chaticer's Canterbury Tales, with Prelimina- 
ry Essays, 1775 ; Pinkerton, Scottish Poems, 3 vols. 
1792; Herbert, Robert the Devylle, 1798; Ritson, 
Ancient Songs, and other collections ; Ellis, George, 
Specimens of Early English Metrical Romance*, 
3 vols. 8vo. 1805; Wright, Political Songs of Eng- 
land {rom John to Edward II., 18;39; the publica- 
tions of the Roxburghe Club, the Baunatyne, 
Maitland, Abbotsford, and Camden Societies, the 
Society of Antiquaries, &c. ; Chambers, Cyclopaedia 
of English Literature ; Craik, History of Englif/i 
Literature and the English Language, 2 vols., 1861; 
Marsh, Orig'n and History of the English Lan- 
guage, 1862. 

A. D. 1350.] THE AGE OF CHAUCER, 35 

THE' AGE OF CHAUCER. A. D. 1350 — A. D. 1400. 

§ 1. The fourteentli century a great period of transition — Chancer, the type of 
his age. § 2. His literary predecessors, especially Goaver. 6 3. Influence of 
WiCLiFFE. §4. Chaucer: his personal history, character, and appearance. 
§ 5. Two periods in his literary career, corresponding to the Romantic and 
Renaissance tendencies. The religious element : his relations to Wicliffe. 
§ 6. Critical survey of his works. Of the Romantic type : — (i.) Romaunt of 
the Rose; (ii.) Court of Love; (iii.) Assembli/ of Fotvls ; (iv.) Cuckow and 
Nightingale ; (v.) The Flower and the Leaf ; (vi.) Chaucer'' s Dream ; (vii.) Boke 
of the Duchesse ; (viii.) House of Fame. Of the Renaissance type ; (ix.) The 
Legende of Good WSnen ; (x.) Troilus and Cresseide. ^ 7. The Canterbury 

• Tales ; the Prologue and Portrait Gallery. § 8. Plan incomplete. The 
existing Tales ; their arrangement, metrical forms, and sources. § 9. Critical 
examination of the chief Tales, in their two classes, serious and humorous. 
The two prose Tales. ^ 10. Chaucer's services to the English language. 

§ 1. The fourteenth century is the most important epoch in the 
intellectual history of Europe. It is the point of contact between two 
"widely-diftering eras in the social, religious, and political annals of our 
race ; the slack water between the ebb of Feudalism and Chivalry, and 
the "young flood " of the Revival of Letters and the great Protestant 
Reformation. As in the long bright nights of the Arctic summer, the 
glow of the setting sun melts imperceptibly into the redness of the 
dawning, so do the last brilliant splendors of the feudal institutions 
and the chivalric literature transfuse themselves, at this momentous 
period, into the glories of that great intellectual movement which has 
given birth to modern art, letters, and science. Of this great transform- 
ation the personal career, no less than the works, of the first great Eng- 
lish poet, Chaucer, will furnish us with themost exact type and expres- 
sion ; for, like all men of the^iighest order of genius, he at once followed 
and directed the intellectual tendencies of his age, and is himself the 
" abstract and brief chronicle " of the spirit of his time. Dante is not 
more emphatically the representative of the moral, religious, and 
political ideas of Italy, than Chaucer of English literature. He was, 
indeed, an epitome of the time in which he lived ; a time when chivahy, 
about to perish forever as a political institution, was giving forth its 
last and most dazzling rays, " and, like the sun, looked larger at its 
setting; " when the magnificent court of Edward III. had carried the 
splendor of that system to the height of its development; and when the 
victories of Sluys, of Crecy, and Poitiers, by exciting the national pride, 
tended to consummate the fusion into one vigorous nationality of the 
two elements which formed the English people and the English lat- 
guage. It was these triumphs that gave to the English character 't 

36 TUE AGE OF CUAUCER. [Chap. 11. 

peculiar insularity; and made the Englishman, whether knight or 
yeoman, regard himself as the member of a separate and superior race, 
enjoying a higher degree of liberty and a more solid material welfare 
than existed among the neighboring continental monarchies. The 
literature, too, abundant in quantity, if not remarkable for much origi- 
nality of form, was rapidly taking a purely English tone ; the rhyming 
chronicles and legendary romances were either translated into, or 
originally composed in, the vernacular language. 

§ 2. Thus, among the predecessors of Chaucer, the literary stars 
that heralded the splendid dawning of our national poetry, Richard 
Rolle, Laurence Minot, and the remarkable satirist Langlande in South 
Britain, and Barbour, Wyntoun, and Blind Harry in Scotland, all show 
evident traces of a purely English spirit.* The immediate poetical 
predecessor of Chaucer, however, was undeniably Gower, whose 
interminable productions, half moral, half narrative, and with a con- 
siderable infusion of the scholastic theology of the day, though they 
certainly will terrify a modern reader by their tiresome monotony and 
the absence of originality, rendered inestimable services to the infanlT 
literature, by giving regularity, polish, and harmony to the language. 
Indeed, the style and diction of Gower is surprisingly free from difficult 
and obsolete expressions ; his versification is extremely regular, and he 
runs on in a full and flowing, if commonplace and unpoetical, stream 
of disquisition. It is very curious, as an example of the contemporary 
existence of the French, the Latin, and the vernacular literature at this 
period in England, that the three parts of Gower's immense work 
siiould have been composed in three ditTerent languages : the Vox Cla- 
iiiantis in Latin, the Speculum Meditantis in Norman-French, and the 
Confessio Amantis in English. f 

§ 3. In endeavoring to form an idea of the intellectual situation of 
England in the fourteenth centurj^, we must by no means leave out of 
the account the vast influence exerted by the preaching of Wiclilfe, and 
the mortal blow struck by him against the foundations of Catholic 
supremacy in England. This, together with the general hostility 
excited by the intolerable corruptions of the monastic orders, which 
had gradually invaded the rights, the functions, and the possessions of 
the far more practically-useful working or parochial clergy, still further 
intensified that inquiring spirit which prompted the people to refuse 
obedience to the temporal as well as spiritual authority of the Roman 
See, and paved the way for an ultimate rejection of the Papal yoke. 
Much influence must also be attributed to Wiclifte's translation of the 
Bible into the English language, and to the gradual employment of that 
idiom in the services of the church, towards the perfecting and regu- 
lating of the English language ; an influence similar in kind to the 
settlement of the German language by Luther's version of the same 
holy book, though, perhaps, less powerful in degree ; for in the latter case 

* For an account of Chaucer's predecessors, see Notes and Illustrations (A), 
t For a fuller account of Gower, see Notes and Illustrutious (B). 

A. D. I350.] THE AGE OF CHAUCER. 37 

the reading class in Germany must have been more numerous than in 
the England of the fourteenth century.* 

§ 4. Geoffrey Ghaucer was born in 1328. and his long and active 
life extended till the 25th of October, 1400. Consequently the poet's 
career almost coincides, in its commencement, with the splendid admin- 
istration of Edward III. ; and comprehends also the short and disastrous 
reign of Richard II., whose assassination preceded the poet's death by 
only a few months. In the brilliant court of Edward, in the gay and 
fantastic tournej', as well as in the sterner contests of actual warfare, 
the poet appears to have played no insignificant part. He is supposed 
to have been sprung of wealthy, though not illustrious parentage, and 
must have been of gentle blood ; his surname, which is the French 
Ckaussier^ evidently pointing at a continental — at that period equiv- 
alent, in a certain degree, to an aristocratic — origin. Besides this, we 
have distinct proof, not only in the fact of his having been " armed a 
knight" (which is shown by his evidence in the disputed cause of the 
Scrope and Grosvenor arms), but also in the honorable posts which he 
held, that Chaucer must have belonged to the higher sphere of societj^ 
His marriage, too, with Philippa de Roet, a lady of Poitevin birth, 
the daughter of a knight, and one of the maids of honor in attendance 
upon Queen Philippa, would still further tend to confirm this sup- 

Though but little credit is due to the details set forth in the ordinary 
biographies of the poet, I will condense into a rapid sketch such as are 
best established ; for every trait is interesting that helps us to realize 
the individual existence of so illustrious a man. 

The inscription upon his tomb in Westminster Abbey, which still 
exists, though the recumbent Gothic statue of the poet, originally a 
portrait, has become unhappily so defaced that even the details of the 
dress are no longer distinguishable, fixes the period of his birth in 
1328, and that of his death in 1400. This tomb, however, was not 
erected till 1556, by Mr. Nicholas Brigham, probably an admirer of his 
genius. Chaucer calls himself a Lo7idenols or Londener in the Testa- 
me?it of Love. In his Court of Love he speaks of himself under the 
name and character of " Philogenet — of Cajiibridge, Clerk; " but this 
hardly proves that he was educated at Cambridge. According to an 
authentic record, he was taken prisoner in 1359 by the French at the 
siege of Rhetiers, and being ransomed, according to the custom of those 
times, was enabled to return to England, in 1360. 

His marriage with Philippa de Roet, which took place in 1367, may 
have brought him more under the notice of the court ; for in 1367 we 
find him named one of the " valets of the king's chamber," and writs 
are addressed to him under the then honorable designation " dilectus 
valettus noster." His official car^^r appears to have been active and 
even distinguished : he enjoyed during a long period various profitable 
ofiices connected with the customs, having been comptroller of the 

* For an account of WiclifFe and Ills school, see Notes and Illiistratijns (C). 


important revenue arising from the large importation of Bordeaux and 
Gascon wines in"to the port of London; and he seems also to have 
been occasionally employed in diplomatic negotiations. Thus, he was 
joined with two citizens of Genoa in a commission to Italy in 1373, on 
which occasion he is supposed to have made the acquaintance of 
Petrarch, then the most illustrious man of letters in Europe. Partly 
in consequence of his marriage with Philippa de Roet, whose sister, 
Catherine Swynford, was first the mistress and afterwards the wife of 
John of Gaunt, and partly perhaps from sharing in some of the political 
and religious opinions of that powerful prince, Chaucer was identified 
to a considerable degree both with the household and party of the 
duke of Lancaster; and the death of the duchess Blanche in 1369 is 
believed to have suggested to him the subject of his Boke of the 
Vuckesse, and the Complaynte of the Blacke Knyght. One of the most 
interesting particulars of his life was his election as representative for 
Kent in the parliament of 1386, which was dissolved in December of 
the same year. 

The year 1382 was the signal for a great and unfavorable change ir, 
the poet's fortunes. In consequence of the active part taken by him in 
the struggle between the court and the city of London,, on occasion of 
the re-election of John of Northampton to the mayoralty, Chaucer fell 
into disgrace and difliculty, and was exposed to serious persecution, 
and even imprisoned in the Tower, whence he is said to have attained 
his liberation only on condition of accusing and denouncing his asso- 
ciates. This imprisonment lasted three years ; and in addition to 
heavy fines and the loss of his offices, the poet underwent a severe 
domestic calamity in the death of his wife, in 1387. The catastrophe 
in his aflfairs to which we have alluded was, however, followed by a 
partial restoration to favor; for in 1390 he was appointed to the office of 
clerk of the king's works, which he held for only about a year; and 
there is reason to believe that, though his pecuniary circumstances 
must have been, during a great part of his life, proportionable to the 
position he occupied in the state and in society, his last days were 
more or less clouded by embarrassment. It is with regret that we are 
obliged to abandon the supposition, founded on insufficient evidence, 
of his having resided, during the latter part of his life, at Donnington 
Castle. It is more probable that the close of his career was passed at 
Woodstock, where a house was long shown as having been the poet's 
residence. His death took place at Westminster, and the house in 
which this event occurred was afterwards removed to make room for 
the chapel of Henry VII. 

If we may judge from an ancient and probably authentip portrait 
of Chaucer, attributed to his contemporary and fellow-poet, Occleve, 
as well as from a curious and beautiful miniature introduced, according 
to the fashion of those times, into one of the most valuable manu- 
script copies of his works, our great poet appears to have been a man 
of pleasing and acute, though somewhat meditative and abstracted 
countenance, wearing a long beai^d : and he seems to have become 

A. D. I400.] THE AGE OF CHAUCER. 39 

somewhat corpulent towards the end of his life, at which time the Can' 
terbury Tales were written. These peculiarities of personal appear- 
ance, as well as some others, g;iving indications of his manners and 
character, are also alluded to bj the poet himself in the Tales them- 
selves. When Chaucer is in his turn cal/ed upon bj the host of the 
Tabard, himself represented as a " large man," and a " faire burgess," 
to contribute his story to the amusement of the pilgrims, he is rallied 
bj honest Harry Bailey on his corpulency, as well as on his studious 
and abstracted air : — 

" "What man art thou ? " quod he, 
"Thou lokest as thou woldest fynde an hare ; 
For ever on the ground I se the stare. 
Approach nere, and loke merrily. 
Now ware you, sires, and let this man have space. 
He in the wast is shape as wel as I : 
This were a popet in an arm to embrace, 
For any womman, smal and fair of face. 
He semeth elvisch by his countenance. 
For unto no wight doth he daliaunce." 

The good-nature with which the poet receives these jokes, and the 
readiness with which he commences a new story when uncourteously 
cut short, all seem to point to the gentlemanly and sociable qualities of 
an accomplished man of the world. 

§ 5. The literary and intellectual career of Chaucer seems to divide 
itself naturally into two periods, closely corresponding with the two 
great social and political tendencies which meet in the fourteenth cen- 
tury. The earlier productions of Chaucer bear the stamp and character 
of the Chivalric, his later and more original creations of the Renais- 
sance literature. It is more than probable that the poet's visits to 
Italy, then the fountain and centre of the great literary revolution, 
brought him into contact with the works and the men by whose exam- 
ple the change in the taste of Europe was brought about. Dante, it is 
true, died before the birth of Chaucer; and though his influence as a 
poet, a theologian, and a metaphysician, may not yet have fully reached 
England, yet Chaucer must have fallen under it in some degree. There 
is a third element in the character of Chaucer's writings, besides the 
imitation of the decaying Romance and the rising Renaissance litera- 
ture, which must be taken into account by all who would form a true 
conception of his intellect; and this is the religious element. It is 
difficult to ascertain how far the poet sympathized with the bold doc- 
trines of Wicliffe, who, like himself, was favored and protected by 
John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III. It is, however, probable, 
that though he sympathized — as is shown by a thousand satirical 
passages in his poems — with Wicliffe's hostility to the monastic orders 
and abhorrence of thi corruptions of the clergy, and the haughty 
claims of papal supremacy, the poet did not share in the theological 
opinions of the reformer, then regarded as a dangerous heresiarch. 
Chaucer probably remained faithful to the creed of Catholicism, while 


attacking with irresistible satire the abuses of the Catholic ecclesiastical 
administration. How intense that satire is, may be gathered from the 
conter/i^^able and odious traits which he has lavished on nearly all his 
portraits of monastic personages in the Cajiterbury Tales ; and not 
less clearly from the strong contrast he has made between the sloth, 
sensuality, and trickery of these persons, and the almost ideal per- 
fection of Christian virtue which he has associated with his Persoune, 
the only member of the secular or parochial clergy he has introduced 
into his inimitable gallery. It is by no means to be understood that 
the principal works of this great man can be ranged chronologically 
under the two strongly marked categories just specified ; or that all 
those bearing manifest traces of the Provencal spirit and forms were 
written previously, and those of the Renaissance or Italian type sub- 
sequently, to any particular epoch in the poet's life \ but only that his 
earlier productions bear a general stamp of the one, and his later of the 
other literary tendency; while the greatest and most original of all, 
the Canterbury Tales, may be placed in a class by itself. 

§ 6. A brief critical examination of Chaucer's works may serve to 
point out, however imperfectly, the boundless stores of imagination and 
pathos, of wisdom and of wit, which the father of English poetry has 
embodied in language that has never been surpassed, and seldom 
equalled, for harmony, variety, and picturesqueness. I shall reserve to 
the last the more detailed analysis of the Catiterbury Tales. On a 
rough general inspection of the longer works which compose the rather 
voluminous collection of Chaucer's poetry, it will be found that about 
eight of them are to be ascribed to a direct or indirect imitation of 
purely Romance models, while three fail naturally under the category 
of the Italian or Renaissance type. Of the former class the principal are 
the Romaunt of the Rose, the Court of Love, the Assembly of Rozvls, 
the Cuckoiv and the Nightingale, the Flower and the Leaf, Chaucer s 
Dream, the Boke of the Duchesse, and the House of Fame. Under the 
latter we must range the Legend of GoodWomeji, Troilus and Creseide<, 
Anelyda and Arcyte, and above all the Canterbury Tales. 

(i.) The Romaunt of the Rose is a translation of the famous French 
allegory Le Romaji de la Rose, which forms the earliest monvnnent of 
Fi'ench literature in the thirteenth century. The original is of inordinate 
length, containing, even in the vmfinishcd state in which it was left, 
22,000 verses, and it consists of two distinct portions, the work of two 
very different hands. It was begun by Guillaume de Lorris, who com- 
pleted about 5000 lines, and was continued after his death by the witty 
and sarcastic Jean de Meun : the former of these authors died in 1260, 
and the latter probably about 1318, which will make him nearly the 
contemporary of Dante. The portion composed by Lorris has great 
poetical merit, much invention of incident, vivid character-painting, 
and picturesque description ; the allegorical coloring of the whole, 
thoue;h wire-drawn and tedious to our modern taste, was then highly 
admii-ed, and gave the tale immense popularity. The continuation by 
Meun, though following up the allegory, diverges into a much more 

A. D. 1400.] THS AGE OF CHAUCER. 41 

satirical spirit, and abounds in what were then regarded as most auda- 
cious attacks on religion, social order, the court, and female reputation. 
Even at this distance of time it is impossible not to admire the bold- 
ness, the vivacity, and the severity of the satire. According to the 
almost universal practice of the old Romance poets, the story is put 
into the form of a dream or vision ; and the principal allegoric person- 
ages introduced, as Hate, Felony, Avarice, Sorrow, Elde, Pope-Holy, 
Poverty, Idleness, &c., are of the same kind as usually figure in the 
poetical narratives of the age. Lover, the hero, is alternately aided 
and obstructed in his undertakings, the principal of which is that of 
culling the enchanted rose which gives its name to the poem, by a 
multitude of beneficent or malignant personages, such as Bel-Accueil, 
Faux-Semblant, Danger, Male-Bouche, and Constrained-Abstinence. 
Chaucer's translation, which is in the octosyllabic Trouvere measure 
of the original, and consists of 7699 verses, comprehends the whole of 
the portion written by Lorris, together with about a sixth part of 
Meun's continuation ; the portions omitted having either never been 
translated by the English poet in consequence of his dislike of the 
immoral and anti-religious tendency of which they were accused, or 
left out by the copyist from the early English manuscripts. The trans- 
lation gives incessant proof of Chaucer's remarkable ear for metrical 
harmony, and also of his picturesque imagination ; for though in many 
places he has followed his original with scrupulous fidelity, he not 
unfrequently adds vigorous touches of his own. Thus, for example, in 
the description of the Palace of Elde, a comparison between the original 
and the translation will show us a ^ rand image entirely to be ascribed 
to the English poet : — 

Travail et Douleur la hcrbergent, With Iiir Labour and Travaile 
Mais ils la tient et enfergent, Logged ben with Sorwe and Woo, 

Et tant la batent et tormentent, That never out of hir court goo. 

Que mort prochaine li presenteut. Peyne andDistresse, Sykenesse and Ire, 

And Malencoly, that angry sire, 
Ben of hir paleys senatoures ; 
Gronyng and Grucchyng hir herbejeours, 
The day and nyght, hir to turnient, 
And tellen hir, erliche and late, 
That Deth stondith armed at hir gate. 

(ii.) The Court of Love is a work bearing, both in its form and 
spirit, strong traces of that amorous and allegorical mysticism which 
runs through all the Provencal poetry, and which seems to have been 
developed into substantive institutions in the Cours d'Amour of 
Picardy and Languedoc, whose arrets form such a curious example of 
the refining scholastic subtleties of mediaeval theology transferred to 
the fashions of chivalric society. It is written in stanzas of seven 
lines, each line being of ten syllables ; the first and third rhyming 
together, as do the second, fourth, and fifth, and again the sixth and 
seventh. It is written in the name of " Philogenet of Cambridge," 


clerk (or student), who is directed by Mercury to appear at the Court 
of Venus. The above designation has induced some critics to suppose 
that the poet meant under it to indicate himself, and have drawn from 
it a most unfounded supposition that Chaucer had studied at Cam- 
bridge. The poet proceeds to give a description of the Castle of Love, 
where Admetus and Alcestis preside as king and queen. Philogenet 
is then conducted by Philobone to the Temple, where he sees Venus 
and Cupid, and where the oath of allegiance and obedience to the 
twenty commandments of Love is administered to the faithful. The 
hero is then presented to the Lady Rosial, with whom, in strict accord- 
ance with Provencal poetical custom, he has become enamoured in a 
dream. We then have a description of the courtiers, two of whom. 
Golden and Leaden Love, seem to be borrowed from the Eros and 
Anteros of the Platonic philosophers. The most curious part of the 
poem is the celebration of the grand festival of Love on May-day, when 
an exact parody of the Catholic Matin service for Trinity Sunday is 
chanted by various birds in honor of the God of Love. 

(iii.) In the Assembly of Fotvls we have a poem not very dissimilar 
in form and versification to the preceding. The subject is a debate 
carried on before the Parliament of Birds to decide the claims of three 
eagles for the possession of a beautiful formel (female or hen) of the 
same species, which perches upon the wrist of Nature. The principal 
incidents of this poem were probably borrowed from ix fabliau to which 
Chaucer has alluded in another place, and the popularity of which is 
proved by the existence of several versions of the same subject, as for 
instance, Hueline et Eglaniine, Le Jtigeiytent d' Amour, and Florence 
et Blanckefor. 

(iv.) The Cuckoru and the Nightiyigale, though of no great length, 
is one of the most charming among this class of Chaucer's productions : 
it describes a controversy between the two birds, the former of which 
was among th« poets and. allegorists of the Middle Ages the emblem 
of profligate celibacy, while the Nightingale is the type of constant 
and virtuous conjugal love. In this poem we meet with a striking ex- 
ample of that exquisite sensibility to the sweetness of external nature, 
and in particular to the song of birds, which was possessed by Chaucer 
in a higher degree, perhaps, than by any other poet in the world ; as 
witness the following inimitable passage : — 

" There sat I downe among the faire floures, 
And sawe the birdes trippe out of hir boures, ♦ 

There as they rested hem alle the night ; 
They were so joyful of the dayes light, 
They began of May for to done honoures. 

They coude that service al by rote ; 
There was many a lovely note ! 
Some songe loud as they had plained, 
And some in other manner voice yfained. 
And some al cute with the fulle throte. 

A. D. i40c^] THE AGE OF CHAUCER. • 43 

They proyned hem, and maden hem right gay, 
, And daunceden and lepten on the spray 
And evermore two and two in fere, 
Right so as they had chosen hem to-yere 
In Feverere upon Saint Valentine's day. 

And the rivere that I sat upon, 
It made such a noise as it ron, 
Accordaunt with the birdes armony, 
Me thought it was the beste melody 
That mighte ben yheard of any man." 

(v.) The Floxver atid the Leaf is, like the preceding poems, ,\n 
allegory related in the form of a chivalric and pastoral adventure. A 
ladj, unable to sleep, wanders out into a forest on a spring morning — an 
opening or jnise en scefte which often recurs in poems of this age — and 
seating herself in a delicious arbor, listens to the alternate song of the 
goldfinch and the nightingale. Her reverie is suddenly interrupted by 
the approach of a band of ladies clothed in white, and garlanded with 
laurel, agnus-castus, and woodbine. These accompany their queen in 
singing a roundel, and are in their turn interrupted by the sound of 
trumpets and by the appearance of nine armed knights, followed hy a 
splendid train of cavaliers and ladies. These joust for an houi, and 
then advance to the first company, and each knight lead.<^ f. lady to a 
laurel to which they make an obeisance. Another troop of ladies now 
approach, habited in green and led by a queen, Avho do reverence to a 
tuft of flowers, while the leader sings a " bargaret," or pastoral song, 
in honor of the daisy, "si douce est la Marguerite." The sports are 
broken off, first by the heat of the sun which withers all the flowers, 
and afterwards by a violent storm of thunder and rain, in which the 
knights and ladies in green are pitifully drenched ; while the white 
company shelter themseh^es under the laurel. The queen and ladies in 
white then comfort and refresh the green band, and the whole retire to 
sup with the party of the white; the nightingale, as they pass along, 
flj'ing down from the laurel to perch upon the hand of the white queen, 
while the goldfinch settles upon the wrist of the leader of the green 
party. Then follows the explanation of the allegory : the white queen 
and her party represent Chastity; the knights the Nine Worthies; the 
cavaliers crowned with lau^el the Knights of the Round Table, the 
Peers of Charlemagne, and the Knights of the Garter, to which illus- 
trious order, then recently founded, the poet wished to pay a compli- 
ment. The queen and ladies in green represent Flora and the followers 
of sloth and idleness. In general the flower typifies vain pleasure, the 
leaf, virtue and industry; the former beii g " a thing fading with every 
blast," while the latter " abides with the root, notwithstanding the 
frosts and winter storms." The poem is written in the seven-lined 
stanza, and contains many curious and beautiful passages. 

(vi., vii.) The two poems entitled Chaucer's Dream, and the BooA- of 
the Duchess, though now found to be separate and distinct works, were 
long confounded together. This err^r was caused by the similarity of 


their style and versification (for they are both wi-itten in the octo- 
syllabic Trouvere measure, the same as that employed in the Rojnaunt 
of the Rose), and in some degree also by the connection of their sub- 
ject with John of Gaunt, Chaucer's friend and patron, and the maiTiage 
of that nobleman with Blanche, heiress of Lancaster. This prince, 
then bearing the title of Earl of Richm^ond, was united to his cousin in 
1359, and the Duchess dying ten years after, John was married a second 
time, in 137 1, to Constance, daughter of Peter the Cruel, King of 
Spain. Both poems are allegorical; and allude, though sometimes 
rather obscurely as regards details, to the courtship of John of (jaunt, 
and his grief, under the person of the Black Knight, at the loss of his 
first wife. There may be traced in the Dream allusions to Chaucer's 
own courtship and marriage, to which we referred in our bio- 
graphical remarks, and which took place about 1360. 

(viii.) For its extraordinary union of brilliant description with 
learning and humor, the poem of the House of Fame is sufficient of 
itself to stamp Chaucer's reputation. It is wu-itten in the Trouvere 
measure, and under the fashionable form of a dream or vision, gives 
us a vivid and striking picture of the Temple of Glory, crowded with 
aspirants for immortal renow^n, and adorned with myriad statues of ' 
great poets and historiarus, and the House of Rumor, thronged with'/' 
pilgrims, pardoners, sailors, and other retailers of wonderful reports.^ 
The Temple, though originally borrowed from the Metamorphoses of 
Ovid, exhibits in its architecture and adornment that strange mixture 
of pagan antiquity with the Gothic details of mediaeval cathedrals, 
that strikes us in the poetry and in the illuminated MSS. of the four- 
teenth century : and in the description of the statues of the great poets 
we meet with a curious proof of that mingled influence of alchemical 
and astrological theories perceptible in the science and literature of 
Chaucer's age. In richness of fancy it far surpasses Pope's imitation, 
The Temple of Fame. 

(ix.) The Legend of Good Women is supposed, from many circum- 
stances, to have been one of the latest of Chaucer's compositions, and 
to have been written as a kind of amende honorable or recantation for 
his unfavorable pictures of female character; and in particiilar for his 
having, b3^ translating the Romati de la Rose, to a certain degree identi- 
fied himself with Jean de Meun's bitter sp,rcasms on the sex. Thousrh 
the matter is closely translated, for the most part, from the Heroidcs 
of Ovid, the coloring given to the stories is entirely Catholic and 
mediaeval. The misfortunes of celebrated heroines of ancient story 
are related in the manner of the Legends of the Saints, and Dido, 
Cleopatra, and Medea are regarded as the Martyrs of 3liint Venus and 
Saint Cupid. The poet's original intention was to compose the legends 
of nineteen celebrated victims of the tender passion ; but the work 
having been left incomplete, we possess only those of Cleopatra, 
Thitbe, Dido, Hypsipyle,' Medea, Lucretia, Ariadne, Philomela, and 
Phillis.. The poem is in ten-syllable heroic couplets, the rhj-med heroic 
measure, and exhibits a consummate mastery over the resoui'ces of the 

A.D. 1400.] THE AGE OF CHAUCER. 45 

English language and prosody, and many striking passages of 'iescrip- 
tion interpolated by Chaucer. A few droll anachronisms also n.aybe 
noted, as the introduction of cannon at the Battle of Actium. '-JS 

(x.) The poem which the generations contemporary with, or suc- 
ceeding to, the age of Chaucer placed nearest to the level of the Can- 
tcrbury Tales, was unquestionably the Troilus and Creseide ; and this 
judgment will be confirmed by a comparison of the two works ; though 
the wonderful variety and humor of the Tales has tended to throw into 
the shade, for modern readers, the graver beauties of the poem we are 
now about to examine. The source from which Chaucer drew his 
materials for this work was indubitably Boccaccio's poem entitled Filos- 
trato. The story itself, which was extremely popular in the Middle 
Ages (and its popularity continued down to the time of Elizabeth, 
Shakespeare himself having dramatized it), has been traced to Guido 
di Colonna, and to the mj^sterious book entitled Trophe of the equally 
m.ysterious author Lollius, so often quoted in Chaucer's age, and 
respecting whom all is obscure and enigmatical. Some of the names 
and personages of the story, as Cryseida (Chryseis), Troilus, Pandarus, 
Diomede, and Priam, are obviously borrowed from the Iliad; but 
their relative positions and personality have been most strangely 
altered ; and the principal action of the poem, being the passionate 
love of Troilus for his cousin, her ultimate infidelity, the immoral 
subserviency of Pandarus, all of which -became proverbial in conse- 
quence of the popularity of this tale, — all details, in short, bear the 
stamp of medieval society, and have no resemblance whatever to the 
incidents and feelings of the heroic age, a period when the female sex 
w^as treated as it is now in Eastern countries, and when consequently 
that sentiment, which we call chivalric or romantic love, could have 
had no existence. Chaucer has frequently adhered to the text of the 
Filostrato, and has adopted the musical and flowing Italian stanza 
of seven lines ; but in the conduct of the story he has shown him- 
self far superior to his original, the characters of Troilus, Pandarus, 
and Creseide in the Filostrato^ contrasting very unfavorably with the 
pure, noble, and ideal personages of the English poet, whose morality, 
indeed, is far higher and more refined than that of his great Floren- 
tine contemporary. I may remark in conclusion, that this beautiful 
poem is of great length, nearly equal in this respect to the ^Eneid of 
Virgil, and that it abounds in charming descriptions, in exquisite traits 
of character, and in incidents which, though sim.ple and natural, are 
involved and developed with great ingenuity. 

§ 7. Chaucer's greatest and most original work is, beyond all com- 
parison, the Catiterbury Tales. It is in this that he has poured forth 
in inexhaustible abundance all his stores of wit, humor, pathos, splen- 
dor, and knowledge of humanity: it is this which will place him, till 
the remotest posterity, in the first rank among poets and character- 

The exact portraiture of the manners, language, and habits of society 
in a remote ags could not fail, even if executed by an inferior hand, 


to possess deep interest ; as we may judge fror- the avidity with which 
we contemplate such traits of real life as are laboriously dug up by the 
patient curiosity of the antiquary from the dust and rubbish of bygone 
days. How great then is our delight when the magic force of a great 
poet evokes a whole series of our ancestors of the fourteenth century, 
making them pass before us "in their habit as they lived," acting, 
speaking, and feeling in a manner invariably true to general nature, 
and stamped with all the individuality of Shakespeare or Molicre. 
The plan of the Canterbury Tales is singularly happy, enabling the 
poet to give us, first, a collection of admirable daguerreotj^pes of the 
various classes of English society, and then to place in the mouths of 
these persons a series of separate tales highly beautiful when regarded 
as compositions and judged on their own independent merits, but 
deriving an infinitely higher interest and appropriateness from the 
way in which they harmonize with their respective narrators. The 
work can be divided into two portions, which are, however, skilfully 
mixed vip and incorporated : the first being the general prologue, de- 
scribing the occasion on which the pilgrims assemble, the portraits of 
the various members of the troop, the adventures of their journey and 
their commentaries on the tales as they are successively related : and 
the second the tales themselves, viewed as separate compositions. 

The general plan of the work may be briefly sketched as follows. 
The poet informs us, after giving a brief but picturesque description of 
spring, that being about to make a pilgrimage from London to the 
shrine of St. Thomas a Becket in the Cathedral of Canterbury, he 
passes the night previous to his departure at the hostelry of the Tabard 
in Southwark. While at the inn the hostelry is filled by a crowd of 
pilgrims bound to the same destination : — 

" In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay, 
n Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage 

To Canterbury with ful devout corage. 
At night was come into that hostelrie 
Wei nyne and twenty in a companye * 
Of sondry folk, by aventure i-falle 
In felawschipe, and pilgryms were tliei alle, 
That toward Canterbury wolden ryde." 

The goodly company, assembled in a manner so natural in those 
times of pilgrimages and of difficult and dangerous roads, agree to travel 
in a body; and at supper the Host of the Tabard, a jolly and sociable 
personage, proposes to accompany the party and serve as a guide, 
having, as he says, often travelled the road before; and at the same 
time suggests that they may much enliven the tedium of their journev 
by relating stories as they ride. He is to be accepted by the whole 
society as a kind Cf judge or moderator, by whose decisions every one 
is to abide. As the journej to Canterbury occupies one day, and the 
return another, the plan of the whole work, had Chaucer completed it, 

* But in his subsequent enumeration (see next page) Chaucer counts thirty 

A.D. 1400.] THE AGE OF CUAUCER. 47 

would have comprised the adventures on the outward journey, the 
arrival at Canterbury, a description, in all probability, of the splendid 
religious ceremonies and the visits to the numerous shrines and relics 
in the Cathedral, the return to London, the farewell supper at the Ta- 
bard, and dissolution of the pleasant company, which would separate 
as naturally as they had assembled. Harry Bailey proposes that each 
pilgrim should relate two tales on the journey out, and two more on 
the way home ; and that on the return of the party to London, he 
who should be adjudged to have related the best and most amusing 
story should sup at the common cost. Such is the setthig or frame- 
work in which the separate tales are inserted ; and the circumstances 
and general mise en schie are so natural and unforced, that no 
reader refuses credence to the ancient tradition of our great poet's 
having founded his work upon an actual pilgrimage to Canterburj^, 
in which he had himself taken part. The tales themselves are admi- 
rably iti accordance with the characters of the persons who relate 
them, and the remarks and criticisms to which they give rise are no 
less humorous and natural ; some of the stories suggesting others, 
just as would happen in real life under the same circumstances. The 
pilgrims are persons of all ranks and classes of society; and in the 
inimitable description of their manners, persons, dress, horses, &c., 
with which the poet has introduced them, we behold a vast and minute 
portrait gallery of the social state of England in the fourteen centurv. 
They are — (i.) A Knight; (2.) A Squire; (3.) A Yeoman, or military 
retainer of the class of the free peasants, who in the quality of an 
archer was bound to accompany his feudal lord to war ; (4.) A Prioress, 
a lady of rank, superior of a nunnery; (5, 6, 7, 8.) A Nun and three 
Priests, in attendance upon this lady; (9.) A Monk, a person repre- 
sented as handsomely dressed and equipped, and passionately fond of 
hunting and good cheer; (10.) A Friar, or Mendicant Monk; (11.) A 
Merchant; (12.) A Clerk, or Student of the University of Oxford; 
(13.) A Serjeant of the Law; (14.) A Franklin or rich country-gentle- 
man ; (15, 16, 17, 18, 19.) Five M^ealthy burgesses or tradesmen, de- 
scribed in general but vigorous and characteristic terms ; they are A 
Haberdasher, or dealer in silk and cloth, A Carpenter, A Weaver, A 
Dyer, and ATapisser, or maker of carpets and hangings ; (20.) A Cook, 
or rather what in old French is called a rdtisseur, i. e. the keeper of a 
ccok's-shop ; (21.) A Shipman, the master of a trading vessel; (22.) A 
Doctor of Physic ; (23.) A Wife of Bath, a rich cloth-manufacturer ; (24.) 
A Parson, or secular parish priest; (25.) A Ploughman, the brother of 
the preceding personage; (26.) A Miller; (27.) A Manciple, or steward 
of a college or religious house; (28.) A Reeve, bailiff or intendant of 
the estates of some wealtfiy landowner; (29.) A Sompnour, or Sumner, 
an officer in the then formidable ecclesiastical courts, whose duty was 
to summon or cite before the spiritual jurisdiction those who had of- 
fended against the canon laws; (30.) A Pardoner, or vendor of Indul- 
gences from Rome. To these thirty persons must be added Chaucel 
himself, and the Host of the Tabard, making in all thirty-two. 


§ 8. Now, if each of these pilgrims had related four tales, viz., two 
on the journey to Canterbury, and two on their return, the work would 
have contained 128 storie's, independently of the subordinate incidents 
and conversations. In realitj-, however, the pilgrims do not arrive at 
their destination, and there are many evidences of confusion in the 
tales which Chaucer has given us, leading to the conclusion that the 
materials were not only incomplete, but left in an unarranged state by 
the poet. The stories that we possess are 25 in number, and are dis- 
tributed as follows: The Knight; The Miller; The Reeve; The Cook, 
to whom two tales are assigned ; * The Man of Law ; The Wife of Bath ; 
The Friar;" The Sompnour; The Clerk of Oxford ; The Merchant; The 
Squire, whose tale is left unfinished ; The Franklin ; The Second Nun ; 
The Canon's Yeoman — a personage who does not form a part of the 
original company, but joins the cavalcade on the journey; The Doctor; 
The Pardoner; The Shipman ; The Prioress ; Chaucer himself, to whom 
two tales are assigned in a manner to which I shall refer presently ; 
The Monk ; the Nun's Priest ; The Manciple, and the Parson. Thus it 
will be seen that many of the characters are left silent, while some of 
them relate more than one story, and two persons altogether extraneous 
are introduced. These are the Canon and his Yeoman, who unexpect- 
edly join the cavalcade during the journey; but it is uncertain whether 
this episode, which was probably an afterthought of the poet, takes 
place on the journey to or from Canterbury. The Canon, who is repre- 
sented as an Alchemist, half swindler and half dupe, is driven away 
from the company by shame at his attendant's indiscreet disclosures ; 
and the latter, remaining with the pilgrims, relates a most amusing 
story of the villanous artifices of the charlatans who pretended to pos- 
sess the Great Arcanum. The stories narrated by the pilgrims are ad- 
mirably introduced by what the author calls " prologues," consisting 
either of remarks and criticisms on the preceding tale, and which nat- 
urally suggest what is to follov/, of the incidents of the journey itself, 
an excellent example of which is the drunken uproariousness of the 
Miller and the Cook, or of the infinitely varied manner in which the 
Host proposes and the Pilgrims receive the command to perform their 
part in contributing to the common entertainment. The Tales are all 
in verse, with the exception of two, that of the Parson, and Chaucer's 
second narrative, the allegorical story of Meliboeus and his wife Patience. 
Those in verse exhibit an immense variety of metricial forms, ranging 
from the regular heroic rhymed couplet, in which the largest portion of 
the work is composed, as well as the general prologue and introductions 
to each story, through a great variety of stanzas of different lengths 
and arrangement, down to the short irregular octosyllable verse of the 
Trouvere Gestours, and — in the case of tlie Tale of Gamelyn — the 

* The first is broken off abruptly almost at the beginning, and the second is 
by some suspected not to be the work of Chaucer at all, as it is written in a style 
and versification unlike the rest of his poems, and seems to belong to an older 
and ruder period of English literature. The Cook's Tale of Gamelyn, if really 
written by Chaucer, was perhaps intended to be related on the journey home. 


long tonic, not syllabic, measure of the old English popular legend, 
which was itself a relic of the ancient Saxon metrical system. All these 
forms Chaucer handles with consummate ease and dexterity ; indeed, it 
may be boldly affirmed that no English poet whatever is more exqui- 
sitely melodious than he : and the nature of the versification will often 
assist us in tracing the sources from whence Chaucer derived or adapted 
his materials. Of him it maybe truly said, as Moliere affirmed of him- 
self, that " il prenait son bien ou il le trouvait," for he appears in no 
single demonstrable instance to have taken the trouble to invent the 
intrigue or subject-matter of any of his stories, but to have freely bor- 
rowed them either for the multitudinous fabliaux of the Provencal poets, 
the legends of the mediaeval chroniclers, or the immense storehouse of 
the Gesta Romanorum, and the rich treasury of the early Italian writers, 
Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. 

§ 9. The Tales themselves may be roughly divided into the two great 
classes of serious, tragic, or pathetic, and comic or humorous ; in both 
stj'les Chaucer has seldom been equalled, and assuredly never surpassed. 
His wonderful power of object and character-painting, the incomparable 
conciseness and vividness of his descriptions, the loftiness of his senti- 
ment, and the intensity of his pathos, can only be paralleled by the 
richness of his humor and the outrageously droll, yet perfectly natural 
extravagance of his laughable scenes. Both in the one style and in the 
other, the peculiar naivett and sly infantine simplicity of his language 
add a charm of the subtlest kind, the reality of which is best proved by 
the evaporation of this delicate perfume in the process, so often and so 
unsuccessfully attempted, of modernizing his language. The finest of 
the elevated and pathetic stories are the Knighfs Tale — the longest of 
them all, in which is related the adventure of Palamon and«Arcite ; — 
the Squire's Tale, a wild half-Oriental story of love, chivalry, and en- 
chantment, the action of which goes on " at Sarray (Bakhtchi-Sarai) in 
the londof Tartary ; " the Alan of Laiv's Tale, the beautiful and pathetic 
story of Custance; the Prioress's Tale, the charming legend of " litel 
Hew of Lincoln," the Christian child murdered by the Jews for so per- 
severingly singing his hymn to the Virgin ; and above all the Clerk of 
Oxford's Tale, perhaps the most beautiful pathetic narration in the 
whole range of literature. This, the story of Griselda, the model and 
heroine of wifely patience and obedience, is the crown and pearl of all 
the serious and pathetic narratives, as the Knight's Tale is the master- 
piece among the descriptions of love and chivalric magnificence. 

I will rapidly note the sources from which, as far as can be ascer- 
tained at present, Chaucer derived the subjects of the narratives above 
particularized. The Knighfs Tale is freely borrowed from the Theseida 
of Boccaccio, many of the incidents of the latter being themselves taken 
from the Thebais of Statins. Though the action and personages of this 
noble story are assigned to classical antiquity, it is needless to say that 
the sentiments, manners, and feelings of the persons introduced are 
those of chivalric Europe; the "Two Noble Kinsmen," Palamon and 
Arcite, being the purest ideal types of the knightly character, and the 


decision of their claims to the hand of Emilie by a combat in champ clos^ 
an incident completely alien from the habits of the heroic age. The 
Squire's Tale bears evident marks of Oriental origin ; but v/hether it be 
a legend directly derived from Eastern literature, or received by Chau- 
cer after having filtered through a Romance versiofi, is now uncertain. 
It is equal to the preceding story in splendor and variety of incident 
and word-painting, but far inferior in depth of pathos and ideal eleva- 
tion of sentiment ; yet it was by the Squire's Tale that Milton charac- 
terized Chaucer in that inimitable passage of the Penseroso where he 
evokes the recollections of the great poet : — 

*' And call up him that left half-told 
The story of Cambuscan bold, 
Of Cambal, and of Algarsife, 
And who had Canace to wife 
That owned the virtuous ring and glass ; 
And of the wondrous horse of brass 
On which the Tartar king did ride." 

The Man of Law's Tale is taken with little variation from Gower's 
voluminous poem '•'■Confessio A7na?itis" the incidents of Gower's narra- 
tive being in their turn traceable to a multitude of romances, as for 
instance those of jEwarc, the Chevalier au Cygne, the Roman dela Vio- 
Ictte, Le Bone Florence de Rojnc, and the inexhaustible Gesta Ronia- 
norum. The character of the noble but unhappy Custance, beautiful as 
it is, is idealized almost beyond nature ; and the employment of the 
Italian stanza harmonizes well with the tender but somewhat enervated 
graces of the narrative. The legend of the " litel clergion," foully mur- 
dered by the Jews at Lincoln, and whose martyrdom is so miraculously 
attested, w£ls in all probability founded on fact, at least so far as regards 
cruel punishment having been inflicted on the Jews accused of such a 
crime. An infinity of ballads were current in England and Scotland 
on this subject, and one indeed has been preserved in Percy's Reliques 
of Ancient English Poetry, entitled " The Jewes Daughter." Moreover 
there still exists a record of the trial of some Jews for the assassina- 
tion of a Christian child at Lincoln in 1256, in the reign of Henry III. 
Though Chaucer has retained the principal incidents of the English 
legend, he has laid the scene in Asia; but many allusions to the story 
of Hugh of Lincoln prove that the fundamental action is identically the 
same. The tale is exquisitely tender and graceful in sentiment, and 
exhibits precisely that union of religious sentimentality and refinement 
which makes it so appropriate in the mouth of Madame Eglantine the 

The pedigree of the most pathetic of Chaucer's stories, that of Patient 
Griselda, narrated by the clerk of Oxford, is traceable to Petrarch, who 
communicated the incidents to his friend Boccaccio. The latter has 
made them the groundwork of one of the novels of the Decameron, viz., 
the loth and last of the Tenth Day ; and there is evidence that the 
pathos of this beautiful story was found to transgress the limits of or- 
dinary endurance. The submission of Griselda to the ordeals imposed 

A.D. 1400.] TEE AGE OF CHAUCER. 51 

upon her conjugal and maternal feelings by the diabolical tyranny ot 
the Marquis of Saluzzo, her husband, seems exaggerated beyond all 
the bounds of reality. Yet we should remember that the very intensity 
of Griselda's sufferings is intended to convey the highest expression of 
the inexhaustible goodness of the female heart. 

The finest of Chaucer's comic and humorous stories are those of the 
Miller, the Reeve, the Sompnour, the Canon's Yeoman, and the Nun's 
Priest. Though all of these are excellent, the three best are the Miller's, 
the Reeve's, and the Sompnour's; and among these last it is difficult to 
give the palm of drollery, acute painting of human nature, and exqui- 
site ingenuity of incident. It is much to be regretted that the comic 
stories turn upon events of a kind which the refinement of modern 
manners renders it impossible to analyze ; but it should be remembered 
that society in Chaucer's day, though perhaps not less moral in reality, 
was far more outspoken and simple, and permitted and enjoyed allusions 
which have been proscribed by the more precise delicacj^ of later ages. 
The first of these irresistible drolleries is probably the adaptation to 
English life — for the scene is laid at Oxford — of some old fabliau ; the 
Reeve's Tale may be found in substance in the 6th novel of the Ninth 
Day of the Decameron : the Sompnour's Tale, though probably from a 
mediaeval source, has not hitherto been traced. The admirable wit, 
humor, and learning, with which in the Canon's Teoman's Tale 
Chaucer exposes the rascalities of the pretenders to alchemical knowl- 
edge, may have been derived from his own experience of the arts of 
these swindlers. The tale maybe compared with Ben Jonson's comedy 
of the Alchemist. The tale assigned to the Nun's Priest is an exceed- 
ingly humorous apologue of the Cock and the Fox, in which, though 
the dramatis personcB are animals, they are endowed with such a droll 
similitude to the human character, that the" reader enjoys at the same 
time the apparently incompatible pleasures of sj'mpathizing with them 
is human beings, and laughing at their fantastic assumption of reason 
as lower creatures. 

I have remarked, some pages back, on the circumstance of two of the 
stories being written in prose. It may be not uninteresting to investi- 
gate this exception. When Chaucer is applied to by the Host, he com- 
mences a rambling puerile romance of chivalry, entitled the Rhyme of 
Sir Thopas, which promises to be an interminable story of knight- 
errant adventures, combats with giants, dragons, and enchanters, and 
is written in the exact style and metre of the Trouvere narrative poems 
— the only instance of this versification being employed in the Canter^ 
bury Talcs. He goes on gallantly " in the stjle his books of chivalry 
had taught him," and, like Don Quixote, "imitating, as near as he 
could, their very phrase ; " but he is suddenly interrupted, with manjf 
expressions of comic disgust, by the merry host : — 

" *No mot of this, for Goddes dignite ! * 
Quod our Hoste, * for thou makest me 
So wery of thy verray lewednesse, 
That, al so wisly God my soule blesse. 

52 THE AGE OF CHAUOER. [Chap. 11. 

Myn eeres aken for thy drafty speche. 
Now such a rym the devel I byteche ! 
This may wel be rym dogerel,' quod he." 

Theie can be no doubt that the poet took this ingenious method of 
ridiculing and caricaturing the Romance poetry, which had at this time 
reached the lowest point of effeteness and commonplace. Chaucer 
then, with great good-nature and a readiness which marks the man of 
the world, offers to tell "a litel thing in prose; " and commences the 
long allegorical tale of Meliboeus and his wife Patience^ in which, 
though the matter is often tiresome enough, he shows himself as great 
a master of prose as of poetry. Indeed it would be difficult to find, an- 
terior to Hooker, any English prose so vigorous, so harmonious, and 
so free from pedantry and affectation, as that of the great Father of 
our Literature : — 

" The morning-star of song, who made 
His music heard below ; 
Dan Chaucer, the first warbler, whose sweet breath 

Preluded those melodious bursts, that fill 
The spacious times of great Elizabeth 
With sounds that echo still." 

The other prose tale is narrated by the Parson, who, being represent- 
ed as a somewhat simple and narrow-minded though pious and large- 
hearted pastor, characteristically refuses to indulge the company with 
what can only minister to vain pleasure, and proposes something that 
may tend to edification, " moralite and vertuous matiere;" and com- 
mences a long and very curious sermon on the Seven Deadly Sins, 
their causes and remedies — a most interesting specimen of the theolo- 
gical literature of the day. It is divided and subdivided with all the 
painful minuteness of scholastic divinity; but it breathes throughout a 
noble spirit of evangelical piety, and in many passages attains great 
dignity of expression. 

Besides these two Canterbury Tales, Chaucer wrote in prose a trans- 
lation of Bofithius' De Consolatione, and an imitation of that work, 
under the title of T7ie Testament of Love, and an incomplete astrolo- 
gical work. On the Astrolabe, addressed to his son Lewis in 1391. 

The general plan of the Canterbury Tales, a number of detached 
stories connected together by their being narrated by a troop of imagi- 
nary pilgrims, is similar to the method so frequently employed in the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and of which we find examples in 
the Decameron of Boccaccio, the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, and a multi- 
tude of similar collections of stories. The idea may have come origi- 
nally from the East, the very inartificial plan of the Thousand and One 
Nights being not altogether dissimilar, in which the stories of the in- 
exhaustible princess Dinarzadeh are inserted one within the other, like 
a set of Chinese boxes. Chaucer's plan, however, must be allowed to 
be infinitely superior to that of Boccaccio, whose ten accomplished young 
gentlemen and ladies assemble in their luxurious villa to escape from 
the terrible plague, the magnificent description of which forms the 

A.D. 1400.] TEE AGE OF CHAUCER. 53 

Introduction, and which was then, in sad reality, devastating Florence. 
Boccaccio's interlocutors being all nearly of the same age and social con- 
dition, — for thej are little else but repetitions of the graceful types of 
Dioneo and Fiammetta, — it was impossible to make their tales corre- 
spond to their characters as Chaucer's do; independently of the shock to 
the reader's sense of propriety in finding these elegant voluptuaries 
whiling away, with stories generally of very doubtful morality, the 
hours of seclusion in which they find a cowardly and selfish asylum 
during a most frightful national calamity. 

§ 10. Chaucer rendered to the language of his country a service in 
some respects analogous to that which Dante rendered to that of Italy. 
He harmonized, regulated, and made popular the still discordant ele- 
ments of the national speech. The difficulty of reading and under- 
standing him has been much exaggerated : the principal rule that the 
student should keep in mind is that the French words, so abundant in 
his writings, had not yet been so modified, by changes in their orthog- 
raphy and pronunciation^ as to become anglicized, and are therefore 
to be read with their French accent; and secondh", that the final e which 
terminates so many English words was not yet become an e mute, and 
is to be pronounced as a separate syllable, as love, hope, love, hopt ; 
and finally, the past termination of the verb ed is almost invariably to 
be made a separate syllable. Some curious traces of the old Anglo- 
Sa>ion grammar, as the inflections of the personal and possessive pro- 
nouns, are still retained ; as well as of the Teutonic past participle, in the 
prefix / or y {ifalle, yron, German gef alien, geronneit), and a few other 
details of the Teutonic formation of the verb. 


A—THE PREDECESSORS OF GOWER | ^.l P^^f^^l^^g centuries of transition (though it i. 

AVD PFTATTFR diificult to draw the precise line of demarcation) by 

its substance as well as its form. While the lan- 

By the middle of the fourteenth century the spirit guage has become so like modern English, that it 

of patriotism evoked by Edward III., and the in- can be read with tolerable ease, by pronouncing 

fluence of the continental Renaissance, were united sj'llables which are now mute , aKowing for the 

to call forth a vigorous national literature. Its retention of some inflectional forms, especially in 

chief product, as in most similar cases, was poetry, the pronouns and verbs, and takuig the trouble to 

but the earliest works in prose tliat can be properly learn the meaning of a few words now obsolete, 

called English belong to the same age. In A. D. the subjects are no longer borrowed entirely from 

LSoC, Maudeville dedicated his Travels to Edward i the monkish chroniclers or the Xorman minstrels; 

in. : in 1562 Parliament was first opened by a ! and those so borrowed are treated with the indepeu- 

speech in English ; Chaucer had begun to write ; I deuce of native genius. These characteristics are 

and Gower had exchanged the French and Latin 
of his earlier works for his mother tongue. That 
meeting of different influences, referred to in the 
text, may be illustrated by the fact that the last 
great hero of cliivaliy, the Black Prince, and 
Occam (see p. 22, 6), the last and greatest of the 
English schoolmen, lived in the same century with 
Chaucer, the father of English poetry, and Wic- 
liflie, the herald of the Reformation. The new 
literature may be distinguished from that of the 


first fullj' seen in Chaucer, and in a less degree in 
Gower in proportion to his far less commanding 
genius; but these two had several precursors in 
England, while a vigorous native literature grew 
up in the Anglo-Saxon parts of Scotland. AHAM 
L'AViE and Richakd Rolle (d. 1349), or Richard 
of Ilampole, near Dancaster, writers of metrical 
paraphrases of Scripture, and other religious pieces, 
belong properly to the Old English period, the 
former being the only English poet named in tho 




[Chap. II. 

reign of Edward 11. Richard Rolle also wrote, in 
the Northumbrian dialect, a poem called The 
Pricke of Conscience, in seven books, and nearly 
10,000 lines. It has been published by Mr. Morris, 
1803. The first poet of any merit, known to us by 
name, is Lawrence Minot (about A. D. 1352). 
His poems were discovered by Tyrwhitt, in 1775, 
and printed by Ritson in 1796 (reprinted in 1825), 
with an Introduction on the reign and wars of 
Edward III. They celebrate ten victories of that 
king in his wars with France and Scotland, except 
that the first gives an account of the battle of Ban- 
nockbum (A. D. 1314), as an introduction to that 
of Ilalidon llill (A. D. 1333) and others by which it 
was avenged. The last, the taking of Guisnes 
(A. D. 1352), gives an approximate date for the 
author, who may, however, of course have written 
the other poems nearer the events. Equal in spirit 
to the best of our heroic ballads, they have more 
sustained power and more finished composition. 
Their language is a border dialect, near akin to the 
Scotch. It is quite intelligible, when a few obsolete 
words and constructions are mastered. Among 
their varied measures, we meet with the animated 
double triplet, familiar in the poems of Scott. In 
Minot's poems rhyme is regularly employed ; while 
the frequent alliterations not only remind us of the 
principle of Anglo-Saxon composition, but prove 
how much the popular ear still required that 

There is another famous poem of the same age, 
constructed by a mixture of alliteration and rhyth- 
mical accent, without rhyme; the alliteration being 
stricter than that of the Anglo-Saxons themselves. 
This is the Viinon of Piers Ploughman, or rather 
the Vision of WiUimn eonceming Piers (or Peter) 
I'loughman, an allegory of the difficulties in the 
course of human life, kindred in conception to 
Banyan's great work, and in its day scarcely less 
popular. Its prevalent spirit is that of satire, aimed 
against abuses and vices in general, but in particu- 
lar against the corruptions of the church, from a 
moral (though not doctrinal) point of view closely 
resembling that of tlie later Puritans, with whom it 
was a great favorite. It consists of nearly 8000 
double verses (or couplets), arranged in twenty 
^'■passus," or sections, so little connected with each 
other as to appear almost separate poems. Each 
couplet has two principal accents, with a consider- 
able license as to the number of syllables. The 
alliteration falls on three accented syllables in each 
couplet, namely, on both those of the first line and 
on the first in the second line (and sometimes on 
the second). As these peculiarities can only be 
understood by an example, we give the opening of 
the poem, which also shows where the scene of the 
vision is laid, among the Malvern Hills (the pas- 
sage is quoted with the modernized spelling and 
explanations of Professor Craik) : — 

" In a .«ummer season. 

When .loft was tlie »un, 
I s/ioop me into .sAiouds* 

As I a ."fAeep t were ; 
In liah'it as a Aennit 

Un/(oly of werkes.i 

"Went U'ide in this World 
JFouders to hear : 

• Put mvself into clothes. 
t Probably a, vugabuud ixiar. 

t Shepherd. 

Ac * on a 3/ay ?norwening, 

On itfalveni hills, 
Me be/el a/erly,t 
Ofy'airy me thought." 

This opening marks the probable residence of the 
poet. The third couplet, with other internal evi- 
dence, points to his having been a priest. The date 
seems to be tolerably well fixed by his allusions to 
the treaty of Bretigny, in 1360, and to the great 
tempest of January 15, 1362, of which he speaks 
as of a recent event. Tradition ascribes the work 
to a certain Robert Langlande; but in the 
Latin title the author is called William. Nothing 
whatever is known of his personal history. Ilis 
acquaintance with ecclesiastical literature agrees 
with the supposition that he was a churchman ; and 
he was evidently familiar with the Latin poems 
ascribed to Walter de Mapes. The great interest 
of his work is its unquestionable reflection of the 
popular sentiment, of the age. Langlande is as 
intensely national as Chaucer; but, while the latter 
freely avails himself of the forms introduced by the 
Anglo-Norman literature, the former makes a last 
attempt to revive those of the Anglo-Saxon. This 
eftbrt, combined with his rich humor and unsparing ^^ 
satire, gained him unbounded popularity with the 
common people. The Vision of Piers Ploughman 
was first printed in 1550; the last reprint in black 
letter is that of Dr. Whitaker, 1813; a far better 
edition was published by Mr. Wright, with Litro- 
duction. Notes, and Glossary, in 2 vols. 12mo. 
Lond. 1812; but the numerous MSS. of the work 
would still repay a careful collation. Langlande 
had numerous imitators. The Creed of Piers 
Ploughman, a work of the same school, and often 
ascribed to the same author, is supposed to have 
been written about twenty or thirty years later than 
the Vision. It is more serious in its tone, and more 
in harmony with the religious views of Wiclifte. 
The Comfilaint of Piers Ploughman is found in a 
volume of political and satirical songs, which also 
contains a poem on the misgovemment of Rich- 
n., hinting at his deposition. These political 
poems concur with Gower's Vox Clamantis to give 
us a vivid impression of the evils which provoked 
the Lancastrian revolution. 

English Prose Literature begins with SiR JoilN i 
DE Manueville, who was born at St. Alban's 
about A. D. 1300, and left England for the East in | 
1322. His travels and his service under Oriental 
sovereigns gave him an extensive knowledge of 
Palestine, Egypt, Persia, and parts of India, Tar- \ 
tary, and China. He resided three years at Pekin. j 
On his return he wrote an account of what he pro- - 
fessed to have seen, and dedicated the book to ' 
Edward III. in A. D. 1356. He died at Liege, 
A. D. 1371. Mandeville's work is neither wholly, 
nor even chiefly, original. He borrows freely from 
the chroniclers and other old writers, preferring 
what is most wonderful ; and his own observations 
have so much of the marvellous as to discredit his 
testimony. The work is now chiefly interesting as 
the earliest example, on a large scale, of English 
prose. Mandeville himself tells us that he wrote it 
first in Latin, then translated it into French, and 
afterwards into English, "that every man of my 
nation may understand it." Such is not the proces* 


t Wonder. 

Chap. II.] 



of creating a work of literary art ; and accordingly 
the English of Mandcville is sti-aightforward and 
unadorned, and probably a fair example of the 
spoken language of the day. As compared witli 
Robert of Gloucester, it shows a great increase of 
French words. No work of tlie age was more popu- 
lar. It exists in a large number of MSS. The 
earliest printed edition, in English, is that of 
"Wynkyn de Worde, Westminster, 1499, 8vo. ; but 
an Italian translation, by Pietro de Comero, had 
been previously printed at Milan, 1480, 4to. The 
standard English edition is that printed at London, 
1725, S\'o., and reprinted, with an Introduction, 
Kotes, and Glossary, by Mr. ilalliwell, London, 
1839, 8vo. The translation of the Latin I'oh/chroii- 
icon of Ralph Higden (see p. 30), by JOHN de 
Tbevisa, Vicar of Berkeley, completed in the year 
1385, is chiefly interesting as having been printed 
by Caxton, 1482, with an additional book bringing 
down the narrative from 1357 to 1460. It was also 
printed by Wynkj'n de Worde in 1485. It is a 
curious proof of the change which a single century 
made in the language, that Caxton thought it neces- 
sary " somewhat to change the rude and old Eng- 
lish, that is to v/it, certain words which in these 
days be neither used ne understood." Several other 
translations, made by Trevisa from the Latin, exist 
only in SIS. 

- The great Scottish Poet of this age, John B.\.K- 
BOUE, Archdeacon of Aberdeen (b. about A. D. 
131G, d. A. D. 1390), was rather a contemporary 
than a precursor of Chaucer, like whom he deserves 
to rank as the father of a national literature. His 
Bruce, in 13,000 rhymed octosyllabic lines, is a 
chrOHicle of the adventures of King Robert I., of 
very high merit. The lowland Scottish dialect was 
formed under exactly the same influences as the 
English, from which it differed rather less than in 
the present day. To confound it with the language 
of the aboriginal Celts is an error akin to painting 
V\'allace in tartans and a kilt. Barbour also paid 
several visits to England, and studied at Oxford in 
his mature age. Before tliis time there are hardli' 
any names in Scottish literature, except the school- 
man MlOllAKL Scot, who resided abroad, and was 
scarcely known at home except by his fabulous 
reputation as a wizard; Thomas Leemont, the 
Rhymer, of Ercildoune, erroneously called the 
author of the romance of iStV Tristram; and the 
Latin chronicler, John of Foepun, a canon of 
Aberdeen, whose Scoti-chronicon contains the 
legendary and historical annals of his country to 
the death of David I. The later and less celebrated 
contemporary of Barbour, Andeew WirNTOUN 
(b. about A. D. 1350, d. after 1420), Prior of Loch- 
leven, wrote a metrical chronicle in nine books, of 
Scottish and general history. Blind Habby, the 
Minstrel, belongs to the following century. 

The transition made in our language and litera- 
ture about the middle of the fourteenth century 
cannot be better illustrated than by the writings of 
John Gower, the contemporary and friend of Chau- 
cer, and the author of three great poetical works, 
the first in French, the second in Latin, and the 
third in English. Gower is assumed to have been 
jomewhat older than Chaucer, as the old writers 

generally name him first; he survived him by eight 
years, Chaucer ha\ ing died in A. D. 1400, ^nd 
Gower in A. D. 1408. But the precedence must be 
awarded to Chaucer, not only for the vast superior- 
ity of his genius, but as the earlier writer in English. 
It may be questioned whether Gower would have 
written in English at all, except in conformity to 
the tairte created by Chaucer. Their earl3' friend- 
ship is evinced by Ciiaucer's dedication of Troilus 
and Crescyde to Gower, by a title which became a 
fixed epithet of the latter poet : — 

" O MOKAL GOWKK! this booke I direct 
To thee, and to the philosophicall Strode, 
To vouchsafe there need is to correct 
Of your benignities and zeales good." 

And the continuance of their friendship (in spite of 
conjectmres founded on insufficient evidence) is 
attested by the compliment paid to Chaucer in 
Gower's Con/essio Amantis (finished in 1393), where 
Venus greets Chaucer 

" As my disciple and my poete," 
and after speaking of "the ditteesaud songes glad,'' 
composed " in the floures of his youth " for her 
sake, and of which 

" The land fulfilled is ouer all," 
exhorts him to employ his old age in writing his 
" Testament of Love." 

Two of the Canterbury Tales, those of the Man of 
Law and the Wife of Bath, are borrowed from 
Gower, unless both poets derived them from a 
common source. 

Caxton made Gower a native of Gowerland in 
South Wales, and Leland claimed him as a member 
of the family of Gower of Stittenliam, in Yorkshire, 
from which are sprung the noble houses of Suther- 
land and Ellesmere. But Sir Harris Nicolas and 
others have proved, from existing deeds, and from 
the comparison of seals with the arms on Gower's 
tomb, that the poet was an esquire of Kent, and 
probably of the same family as Sir Robert Gower 
of Multon (Moultou) and Kentwell, in Sufl'olk, who 
died in or before A. D. 1349, and whose daughter 
and coheiress Joan conveyed the manor of Kent- 
well to John Gower (the poet) on June 28, 13G8. 
From this and similar evidence it appears that 
Gower was sprung from a family of knightly rank, 
and that he possessed estates in Kent, Norfolk, 
Suffolk, and probably in Essex; though he lived 
much in London, and apparently in close connec- 
tion with the court. There is no ground for the 
common statement that he followed the legal pro- 
fession. About the j-ear 1400, he speaks of himself 
as both old and blind. His will still exists, made 
on the 15th of August, 1408, and proved by his 
widow, Agnes, on the 24th of October following, so 
that he must have died between those two dates. 
There can be little doubt that his wife was the same 
as the Agnes Groundalf whose marriage to Jolui 
Gower, at St. Mary Magdalen's, Southwark, on the 
28th of January, 1397, is recorded in the register of 
William of Wykeham, preserved at Winchester. 
If so, the poet married in his old age. His vvill 
leaves it doubtful whether he had issue. He lies 
buried, according to his own directions, in St. Mary 
Overy's (now St. Saviour's), Soutliwark, of which 
criurch he is said to have been a benefactor, beneath 
a splendid canopied tomb, bearing hia arms and 



[Chap. II. 

effigy, the head resting on his three volumes ; the 
■wall within the three arches being painted with 
figures of Charity, ISIcrcy, and Pity. The story of 
his having been a fellow-student with Chaucer, 
either at Oxford or Cambridge, is as unfounded as 
most of Leland's other statements about him, but 
his works furuish proof of his having received the 
best education his age could bjatow, and of his 
command of the languages then in use. 

Gower's three great works were the Speculum 
JHeditantis, in French; the Vox Clainantis, in 
Latin; and the Con/essio Amantis, in English. 

(1.) The Speculuyn Meditantis is now entirely 
lost; the short French poem which Warton de- 
scribes under the title being an entirely ditt'erent 
work. It was a collection of precepts on chastity, 
enforced by examples. But there are still extant 
Fifttj French Ballads by Gower, in a MS. belong- 
ing to the Duke of Sutherland, and edited by the 
late duke for the Roxburghe Club, in 1818. " They 
are," says Pauli {Introd. Essay, p. xxvi.), "ten- 
der in sentiment, and not unrefined with regard to 
'language and form, especially if we consider that 
they are the work of a foreigner. They treat of 
Love in the manner introduced by the Provencal 
poets, which was afterwards generally adopted by 
those in tlie north of France. A few specimens 
cannot fail to give a favorable idea of Gower's skill 
and expression." These were about the last works 
of any importance written in the Anglo-Norman 
French, which was now so fully regarded as a for- 
eign language, that Gower apologizes for his French, 
saying, "I am English," while he gives as a reason 
for using the language, that he was addressing his 

" Al Universite de tout le monde." 
Some verses addressed to IlenryrV., after his acces- 
sion, prove that Gower continued to write in 
French to the end of his life. 

(2.) Of Gower's great Latin poem, the Vox 
Clamantis, Dr. Pauli gives the following account : — 

" Soon after the rebellion of the commons in 1381 
[under Richard II.], an event which made a great 
impression on his mind, he wrote that singular 
work in Latin distichs, called Fox Clamantis, of 
which we possess an excellent edition by the Rev. 
H. O. Coxe, printed for the Roxburghe Club, in 
ISoO. The name, with an allusion to St. John the 
Baptist, seems to have been adopted from the gen- 
eral clamor and cry then abroad in the country. 
The greater bulk of the work, the date of which its 
editor is inclined to fix between 1382 and 1384, is 
rather a moral than an historical essay; but the 
firi^t book describes the insurrection of Wat Tyler 
in an allegorical disguise; the poet having a dream, 
on the 11th of June, 1381, in which men assume the 
Bi'.ape of animals. The second book contains a long 
eermon on fatalism, in which the poet shows him- 
self no friend to Wiclitfe's tenets, but a zealous 
advocate for the reformation of the clergy. The 
third book points out how all orders of society must 
Slitter for their own vices and demerits; in illustra- 
tion of which he cites the example of the secular 
clergy. The fourth book is dedicated" to the clois- 
tered clergy and tlie friars; to the military; 
t'lie sixth contains a violent attack on the lawyers ; 
and the seventh subjoins the moral of the whole, 
represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream,, as inter- 

preted by Daniel." (Introd. Essa]/, p. xxix.) There 
are also some smaller Latin poems, in leonine 
hexameters; among them one addressed to Henry 
IV., in which the poet laments his blindness. 

(3.) Gower's latest poem, the Con/essio Aman- 
tis, was written in English, with a running mar- 
ginal commentary in Latin, soniething like that to 
the Ancient Mariner of Coleridge. Its composition 
seems to be due to the success of Chaucer. Wo 
again quote from Dr. Pauli : " The exact date of 
the poem has not been ascertained, but there ia 
internal evidence, in certain copies, that it existed in 
the year 1392-3. A^ this point involves a question 
of grave importance with respect to the author's 
behavior and position in the political events of the 
day, it will be necessary to enter more fully into 
the subject. He unquestionably issued two editions 
of the work, which, however, as wUl be distinctly 
seen in the present edition, vary from each other 
only at the commencement and at the end ; the one 
being dedicated to King Richard II., the other to 
his cousin, Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Derby. In 
the king's copy the poet describes at length how he 
came rowing downi the Thames at London one day, 
and how he met King Richard, who, having invited 
him to step into the royal barge, commanded him 
to write a book upon some new matter. In that 
addressed to Henry he says, that the book was fin- 
ished, the yere sixteenth of King Richard (A. D. 
1392-3), an important fact, which has been hitherto 
overlooked by all writers on the subject, including 
even Sir H. Nicolas {Life of Chaucer, p. 39), who 
states that Gower did not dedicate his work to Henry 
until he had ascended the throne." Having shown 
that the dedication was made when Henry was not 
yet King, or even Duke of Lancaster, but Earl of 
Derby, — a title which he bore in 1392-3, — Pauli 
proceeds: "The one version abounds in expres- 
sions of the deepest loyalty towards his sovereign, 
for whose sake he intends to write some newe thing 
in English; theother mentions the year of the reign 
of King Richard II., is full of attachment to Henry 
of Lancaster, 

' with whom my herte is of accorded 

and purports to appear in English for England's 
sake." The inference from all this is, that Gower, 
seeing tlie fatal tendency of Richard's course, early 
attached himself to Henry of Lancaster, from whom 
there is still extant a record of his receiving a collar 
in 1394 (probably in acknowledgment of the dedica- 
tion of his poem), and whom he more than once 
addi-esses with att'ection and respect in his minor 
pieces. Hence the commencement of the Confessio 
Amantis would fall before 1386, when Richard 
came of age, and began his arbitrary government. 
Hence, also, the omission of the compliment to 
Chaucer at the end of the poem, in the edition in- 
scribed to Henry, may be explained by motives of 
policy, without inferring any personal alienation. 

The Prologue is in the same strain of dissatisfac- 
tion with the existing order of things, which per- 
vades the Vox Clamantis ; and the poet comforts 
himself with the same resource, the divine govern- 
ment of the world, as revealed in the vision of 
Nebuchadnezzar. Yet how little he shares th« 
opinions of Wiclifi'e is proved by his reference to 

" This new secte of lollj'ilie." 

Chap. II.] 



Pauli gives the following outline of the work : 
" The poem opens by introducing the author him- 
self, in the character of an unhappy lover in despair, 
smitten by Cupid's arrow. Venus appears to him, 
and after having heard his prayer, appoints her 
priest called Genius, like the niystagogue in the 
Picture of Cebes, to hear the lovtr's confession. 
This is the frame of the whole work, which is a 
singular mixture of classical notions, principally 
borrowed from Ovid's Ars Ainandi, and of the 
purely medieval idea, that as a good Catholic the 
unfortunate lover must state his distress to a father 
confessor. This is done, in the course of the con- 
fession, with great regularity and even pedantry; 
all the passions of the human heart, which gener- 
ally stand in the way of love, being systematically 
arranged in the various books and subdivisions of 
the work. After Genius has fully explained the 
evil atiection, passion, or vice under consideration, 
tiic lover confesses on that particular point, and fre- 
quently urges his boundless love for an unknown 
beauty, wlio treats him cruelly, in a tone of aftecta- 
tion which would appear highly ridiculous in a man 
of more than sixty years of age, were it not a com- 
mon characteristic of the poetry of the period. 
After this profession, the confessor opposes hini^ 
and exempliiies the fatal eft'ccts of each passion by 
a variety of apposite stories, gathered from many 
sources. At length, after a frequent and tedious 
recurrence of the same process, the confession is 
ternjiuated by some final injunctions of the priest 
— the lover's petition in a strophic poem addressed 
to Venus — the bitter judgment of the goddess, that 
ae.should remember his old age, and leave oft' such 
fooleries ; 

" For loves lust and lockes hore 
In chambre accorden neuer more " — 

his cure from the wound caused by the dart of love, 
and his absolution, received as if by a pious Roman 

" The materials for this extensive work [more 
than 30,000 lines], and the stories inserted as exam- 
ples for and against the lover's passion, are drawn 
from various sources. Some have been taken from 
the Bible; a great number from Ovid's Metamor- 
phoses, which must have been a particular favorite 
with the author ; others from the medieval histories 
of the siege of Troy, of the feats of Alexander the 
Groat — from the oldest collection of novels, known 
under (he name of the Gesta Jiomanoitim, chiefly 
in its form as used in England — from the Pantheon 
and Speculum Regum of Godfrey of Viterbo, from 
the romance of Sir Lancelot and the Chronicles of 
Cassiodorus and Isidorus." (Introd. Essay, pp. 
xxxiii. xxxlv.) There is also a vast amount of 
alchemical learning from the Almagest, and an 
exposition of the pseudo-Aristotelian philosophy 
of the middle ages. The author's fancy lies almost 
buried under the mass of his learning, and his 
laborious composition shows none of Chaucer's 
humor, or passion, or love of nature. In the lan- 
guage of the new school of poetry, to which Chau- 
cer's genius had given birth, Gower embodies most 
of the faults of the romance writers. Still he has 
his merits. " The vivacity and variety of his short 
verses evince a correct ear and a happy power, by 
the assistance of which he enhances thf interest in 
• tale, and frequently terminates it with e^tisfaction 

to the reader." (W. "W. Lloyd in Singer's Shak- 
speare, vol. iv. p. 261.) The Saxon element is as 
conspicuous in his language as hi Chaucer's; hut he 
uses a larger number of French words, as might 
have been expected from his early habits of compo- 
sition. The frequent want of skill in the construc- 
tion of his sentences shows that it was no easy task 
for him to write so long a work in English. There 
are some forms peculiar to him, as I sigh for I saw, 
and nought for not. He seldom uses alliteration. 
We have a long chain of testimony to Gower's 
popularity, from his own age to that of Shakspeate, 
who speaks of him thus: — 

" To sing a song that old was sung, 
From ashe-s ancient Gower is come, 
Assuming man's infirmities. 
To glad our ear and please our eyes." 


The Con/essio Amantis was first printed by Cax- 
ton, Lond. 1483, fol. (the British Museum has two 
copies of this rare work), and by F. Berthelette, 
Lond. 1532, fol., reprinted 1554, fol. (both in black 
letter). None of the modern editions deserve men- 
tion in comparison of that by Dr. Reinhold Pauli, 
Lond. 1857, 3 vols., Svo., whose Introductory Essay 
contains all that ia known of the poet and hia 


The revolution effected by Chaucer in poetry was 
accompanied and aided by an entirely new develop- 
ment of religious literature, which, besides its higher 
fruits, rendered a similar service to our prose litera- 
ture. The new liberty of thought, which found 
expression in popular literature, showed itself also 
in a sifting of ecclesiastical pretensions, which led 
to a direct appeal to Scripture ; and the reforming 
teachers satisfied this demand by translating the 
Bible into the mother tongue. In the other Prot- 
estant countries of Europe, the revival of national 
literature has been connected with a similar work ; 
and, if the German Bible of Luther, and the Danish 
version of 1550, exerted a more powerful influence 
over the respective languages than the WicliSite 
translations, one chief reason is, that they appeared 
after the invention of printing, by which art they 
were immediately and indefinitely multiplied. In 
Ejigland this great work is ascribed to JOHN iiE 
WiCLiF, WICLIFFE, or Wycliffe (b. about A. D. 
1324, d. A. D. 1384). He was bom at Wicliflfe, near 
Richmond, in Yorkshire; studied at Oxford; be- 
came the priest of Fylingham, in Lincoln; and 
successively Master and Warden of Balliol College 
and Canterbury Hall, Oxford. He began early to 
attack the corruptions of the Church ; and after hia 
deposition from the latter post by Archbishop 
Langham, and the Pope's rejection of his appeal, he 
gave all his energies to the work of reform, both 
by his writings and by theological lectures at 
Oxford. For a long time he was not only unmo- 
lested, but was regarded as a champion of the An- 
glican Church. In 1374 he was a member of a 
commission sent to Avignon, which obtained con- 
cessions from the Pope on the question of induction 
into benefices. He was rewarded by the crown with 
a prebend at Worcester, and the vicarage of Lutter- 
worth, in Leicestershire, which he held till his 
death, being secured from the storm of persecution, 
which soon arose, by the protection of the king'i 



[Chap. II. 

Bon, John of Gaunt. It was in the retirement of 
Lutterworth, after he had been driven from his 
chair at Oxford,* that Wicliffe, aided by his friends 
and disciples, undertook the work of Bible transla- 
tion. Their version was the basis of that of Tyn- 
dale, as the latter was of the Authorized Versions 
of 1535 (Coverdale's) and 1611 (King James's, which 
is still in use); but three centuries and a half 
elapsed before the original translation of the New 
Testament, end nearly five centuries before the 
■whole, appeared in print. The New Testament was 
edited by the Rev. John Lewis, 1731, fol. ; by the 
Rev. II. n. Baker, 1810, 4to. ; and in Bagster's Eng- 
lish Hejcapla, 1811 and 1846, 4to. The Old Testa- 
ment has only lately been published, in the splendid 
edition of the Rev. J. Forshall and Sir Frederick 
Madden, Oxf. 1850, 4 vols. 4to. The authorship of 
the several parts has long been the subject of dis- 
cussion. Accoi-ding to the latest editors, the Old 
Testament and Apocrypha, from Genesis to Baruch 
(in tlie order of the LXX.), was translated by a 
priest named IlEKEFOKn, and the rest of the Old 
Testament and Apocrypha, as well as the whole of 
the New Testament, by Wicliffe. The whole work 
was revised, in a second edition, by Pukvey, who 
has left ua a very interesting essay on the principles 

* Regular professorships not being yet established, 
Wielifte taught at Oxford by that right which, 
though now dormant, is still inherent, ai their 
names imply, in the Degrees of Doctor «nd Jia- 

of translation. The first version seems to have 
been completed about A. D. 1380, and the edition 
of Purvey before 1390; so that this English Bible 
was generally circulated, so far as the jealousy of 
the church would permit, by the end of the four- 
teenth century. Its excellence is to be ascribed to 
two chief causes, the religious sensibility of the 
translators, whose spirit was absorbed in their 
work, and the simple vocabulary and structure of 
the language, which presented itself newly formed 
to their hand. Translated as it was from the Vul- 
gate, it naturalized, chiefly in a Latin form, a large 
stock of religious terms, almost confined before to 
theologians, and at the same time enlarged and 
modified them. Above all, by preserving the uni- 
formity of diction and grammar, suited to tlie 
sacred dignity of the work, and which is not found 
in nearly so high a degree in Wicliffe's own treatises, 
it laid the foundation of that religious or sacred 
dialect, which has contributed to secure dignity and 
earnestness as prevailing characters of our common 
speech. While satires of the type of Piers PUmgh- 
man gratified the popular disgust at the corruptions 
in high places, the newly-opened well-spring of 
truth taught them the cure for these evils ; and their 
•eager reception of both classes of works enriched 
their language as well as influenced their thoughts. 
Chaucer, imbued with popular sympathies, and 
connected with the political party that protected 
WicM'e, could not but be subject to these infiueuccs. 



BETH. A. D. 1400-1558. 

1. Slow progress of English literature from Chaucer to the age of Elizabeth. 
Introduction of printing by Caxton. Improvement of prose. § 2. Scottish 
literature in the fifteenth century: King James I.; Dunbar; Gawin Dou- 
glas; Henkyson; Blind Harry. ^3. Reign of Henry VII., sterile in 
literature. Henry VIII.; Sir Thomas More. $4. Religious Literature: 
Translations of the Bible ; Book of Common Prayer; Latimer ; FoxE. ^ 5. 
Chroniclers and Historians : Lord Berners' Froissart ; Faeyan ; Hall. 
§6. Philosophy and Education: Wilson's Logic; Sir John Cheke ; Ro- 
ger Ascham's Schoolmaster and Toxophiliis. §7. Poets: Skelton ; Bar- 
KLAY and Hawes ; Wyatt and Surrey. § 8. I3allads of the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries: their sources, metre, and modes of circulation. Modern 
collections by Percy, Scott, &c. Influence on the revival of romantic literature. 
Ballads of the Scottish borders and of Robin Hood. 

§ 1. The progress of English Literature, inaugurated in so splendid a 
manner by the genius of Chaucer, though uninterrupted, was for a long 
time comparatively slow. Many social and political causes contributed 
to retard it for a time, or rather to accumulate the nation's energies for 
that glorious intellectual burst which distinguishes the Age of Eliza- 
beth, making that period the most magnificent in the history of the 
English people, if not in the annals of the human race. The causes 
just alluded to were the intestine commotions of the Wars of the Roses, 
the struggle between the dying energies of Feudalism and the nascent 
liberties of our municipal institutions, and the mighty transformation 
resulting from the Reformation. 

In point of splendor, fecundity, intense originality, and national spirit, 
none of the most brilliant epochs in the history of mankind can be 
considered as superior to the Elizabethan. In universality of scope 
and in the influence it was destined to exert upon the thoughts and 
knowledge of future generations, no other epoch can be brought into 
comparison with it. Neither the age of Pericles nor that of Augustus 
in the ancient world, nor those of the Medici and of Louis XIV. in 
modern history, can be regarded as approaching in importance to that 
period which, independently of a multitude of brilliant but inferior 
luminaries, produced the Prince of Poets and the Prince of Philoso- 
phers — William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon. But the interval 
between the end of the fourteenth century and the latter part of the 
sixteenth, though destitute of any names comparable for creative ener- 
gy to that of Chaucer, was a period of great literary activity. The 
importation into England of the art of printing; first exercised among 
us by Caxton, who was himself a useful and laborious author, and 


who died in 1491, unquestionably tended to give a more regular and 
literary form to the productions of that age ; the increase in the num- 
ber of printed books seems in particular to have been peculiarly effica- 
cious in generating a good prose style, as well as in enlarging the circle- 
of readers and extending the influence of popular intellectual activitj^, 
as for example by disseminating the habit of religious and political 
discussion. Thus Mandeville, regarded as one of the founders of prose 
writing in England, and who, at the period of Chaucer, gave to the 
world the curious description of his travels and adventures in many 
lands,* was followed by Chief Justice Fortescue (fl. 1430-1470), 
who, besides his celebrated Latin work " De Laudibus Legum An- 
gliae," also wrote one in English on " The Difference between an 
Absolute and Limited Monarchy." f 

§ 2. But the most brilliant names which occupy the beginning of 
this interval are those of Scotsmen. James I. (1394-1437), who was 
taken prisoner when a child (1405) and carefully educated at Windsor, 
must be regarded as a poet who does equal honor to his own country 
and to that of his captivity. This accomplished prince was the author 
of a collection of love-verses under the title of the King's ^uhair 
(i. e. ^uire or Book)y written in the purest English and breathing the 
romantic and elegant grace which the immense popularity of Petrarch 
had at that time made the universal pattern throughout Europe. His 
own national dialect, too, was that of the Lowland Scots, then and 
long after the language of literature, of courtly society, and of theol- 
ogy, and by no means to be regarded as the mere ;patois or provincial 
dialect which it has become since the union of the two crowns has 
destroyed the political independence of Scotland. In it James com- 
posed a number of songs and ballads of extraordinary mei'it, recount- 
ing with much humor his own amorous adventures ; some, unfortu- 
nately, of a character rather too warm for the delicacy of modern times. 
This intellectual and patriotic prince was assassinated in 1437 at Perth, 
by the nobles, among whom his own uncle was a chief conspirator, to 
revenge the king's concessions to the people. Besides King James, 
Scotland produced about this time several poets of great merit, 
the chief of whom are William Dunbar (about 1465-1520), and 
Gawin or Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld (1474-1522), the former 
a truly powerful and original genius, and the second a voluminous and 
miscellaneous poet, whose example tended much to regularize and 
improve the national dialect, and to enrich the national literature. 
Among Dunbar's numerous poetical compositions we must in particu- 
lar specify his wild allegorical conception of " The Dafice of the Seven 
Veadly Sins," a fantastic and terrible impersonation, with the intense 
reality of Dante and the picturesque inventiveness of Callot. Gawin 

* For an account of Mandeville see p. 54. 

t Sir John Fortescue was originally a Lancastrian. He accompanied Henry 
VI. into exile ; was afterwards taken prisoner at the battle of Tewkesbiiry in 
1471, and was attainted. He obtained his pardon by acknowledging the title 
of Edward IV. 

A. D. 1480-1535.] TO THE AGE OF ELIZABETH, 61 

Douglas is now chiefly remembered as the translator of Virgil into 
Scottish verse, and in both this and his original compositions the 
reader will be struck by the much greater preponderance of French 
and Latin words in the dialect of Scotland than in contemporary Eng- 
lish writings. This is partly to be attributed to the close political con- 
nection maintained by Scotland with France, with which country she 
generally sided out of hostility to England ; and partly, no doubt, to a 
kind of pedantic affectation, a sort of Scottish estilo culto^ like the 
Gongorism of the Spaniards. Robert Henryson (d. about 1500), a 
monk or schoolmaster of Dunfermline, wrote, in imitation of Chaucer, 
the Testament of Faire Cresetde, and the beautiful pastoral of Robin 
and Mahyne (in Percy's Reliques). Another Scottish poet, known 
under the appellation of Blind Harry or Harry the Minstrel, but 
concerning the details of whose life nothing accurate has been discov- 
ered, wrote, in long rhymed couplets, a narrative of the exploits of the 
second great national hero, William Wallace. This work is not des- 
titute of vigorous and picturesque passages. Barbour and the other 
writers of the fourteenth century have been already mentioned (p. 55). 
§ 3. The reign of Henry VII., as might have been expected from the 
sombre character of that politic prince, was by no means favorable 
to literary activity ; but Henry VIII. was possessed of much of the 
learning of his age, and even distinguished himself by his controver- 
sial writings against Luther. The title of "Defender of the Faith," 
by which the Pope recompensed this sceptred polemic, has been ever 
since retained in the style of English sovereigns — a singular example 
of the vicissitudes of names. The great and good chancellor Sir 
Thomas More, the poets Skelton, Wyatt, and Surrey, belong to this 
memorable reign. Of the three last we shall speak among the poets. 
Sir Thomas More (i4§c>-i535) is unquestionably one of the most prom- 
inent intellectual figures of this reign, whether as statesman, polemic, 
or man of letters. The ardent attachment which More felt to the 
Catholic religion, and which he so often testified by acts of persecution, 
contrary to his gentle and genial character, he firmly maintained when 
himself persecuted and in the presence of a cruel and ignominious death. 
His philosophical romance of the Utopia^ written in Latin, is a striking 
example of the extreme freedom of speculative and political discussion, 
exercised not only with impunity, but even with approbation, under the 
sternest tyranny. The fundamental idea of this work was borrowed from 
the Atlajitis of Plato. It is one of the earliest of many attempts to give, 
under the form of a voyage to an imaginary island, the theory of an 
ideal republic, where the laws, the institutions, the social and political 
usages, are in strict accordance with a philosophical perfection. Eng- 
land has been peculiarly fertile in these sports of political fancy. Bacon 
also left an unfinished sketch of an imaginary republic; and the Oceana 
of Harrington is a similar attempt to realize the theory of a perfectly 
happy and philosophic government.* 

* Of Sir Thomas More's English works, the most remarkable, on account of 
its style, is his Life of Echoarcl F., which Mr. Hallam pronounces to be "the 


§ 4. Parallel with the improvement of general literature, and indeed 
in no small measure connected with it, must be noted the very general 
diffusion of religious controversy connected with the doctrines of the 
Reformation, and the dissemination of English translations of the 
Scriptures. Tyndale and Coverdale, the former of whom was 
burned near Antwerp, in 1536, and the latter made Bishop of Exeter 
about the middle of the same century, gave to the world the first por- 
tions, and the two together the whole, of the sacred writings in an 
English version ; and the compilation of the English Book of Common 
Prayer in the reign of Edward VI. combined with the diffusion of the 
Scriptures in the English language to furnish the people with models 
of the finest possible style — grave and dignified without ostentation, 
vigorous and intelligible without vulgarity. The Liturgy itself was 
little else but a translation, with some few omissions and alterations, 
from the Latin Mass-book of the Catholic Church ; but the simple and 
majestic style of the version, as well as that preserved in the English 
translation of the Bible, has endowed the Anglican Church with the 
noblest religious diction possessed by any nation in the world. It was 
formed at the critical period in the history of our native tongue when 
the simplicity of the ancient speech was still fresh and living, and yet 
when the progress of civilization was sufficiently advanced to adorn 
that ancient element with the richness and expressiveness of a more 
polished epoch. The singular felicity of these circumstances has had 
an incalculable effect on the whole character of our language and liter- 
ature, and has preserved to the English tongue the force and pictur- 
esqueness of the fifteenth century, while not excluding the refinements 
of the nineteenth. Nor is it possible that the majestic style of our 
older writers can ever become obsolete, while the noble and massive 
language of our Bible and Prayer-Book continues to exert — as it prob- 
ably ever will — so immense an influence on the modes of thinking and 
speaking of all classes of the population. Many of our ancient preach- 
ers and controversialists too, like good old Hugh Latimer, burned as 
a heretic by Mary in 1555, and the chronicler of the Protestant Martyrs, 
John Foxe, who died in 1587, contributed, in writings which, though 
sometimes rude and unadorned, are always fervent, simple, and idi- 
omatic, to disseminate among the great mass of the people not only an 
ardent attachment to Protestant doctrines, but a habit of religious dis- 
cussion and consequently a tendency to intellectual activity. 

§ 5. Independently of purely religious disquisition the period ante- 
rior to the reign of Elizabeth was not barren of literary productions of 
more general interest. Lord Berners, governor of Calais under 
Henry VIII., translated into the picturesque and vigorous English of 
that day the Chronicle of Froissart, that inexhaustible storehouse of 
chivalrous incident and mediaeval detail. The translation is not only 
remarkable for fidelity and vivacity, but the archaism of Berners' lan- 
guage, by preserving to the modern English reader the quaintness of 

first example of good English language ; pure and perspicuous, well-chosen, 
ivithout vulgarisms or pedantry." 

A. D. 1400-1558.] TO THE AGE OF ELIZ ABETS, 63 

the original, produces precisely the same impression as the picturesque 
old French. 

It is curious to trace the gradual transformation of historical litera- 
ture. Its first and earliest type, in the ancient as well as the modern 
world, is invariably mj^thical or legendary, and the form in which it 
then appears is universally poetical. The legend, by a natural transi- 
tion, gives way to the chronicle or regular compilation of legends ; and 
the chronicle becomes, after many ages of civilization, the mine from 
whence the philosophical historian extracts the rude materials for his 
work. As the detached legendary or ballad episodes of Homer verge 
into the chronicle history^ so fresh in its infantine simplicity, of Herod- 
otus, or the old rude Latin ballads into the chronicle history of Livy, 
and as these in their turn generate the profound philosophical reflec- 
tions of Thucydides or Tacitus, so in the parallel department of mod- 
ern literature in England, we find the fabulous British legends com- 
bining themselves in the Monastic and Trouvere chronicles, and these 
again generating the prosaic but useful narratives from which the mod- 
ern historian draws the materials for his pictures and reflections. In 
the minute and gossiping pages of such writers as old Fabyan (d. 1512), 
who was an alderman and sheriff" of London, and Edward Hall (d. 
1547), who was a judge in the Sheriff"'s Court of the same city, we find 
the ti-ansition from the poetical, ballad, or legendary form of history. 
Their writings, though totally devoid of philosophical system or gen- 
eral knowledge, and though exhibiting a complete want of critical 
discrimination between trifling and important events, are extremely 
valuable, not only as vast storehouses of facts which the modern his- 
torian has to sift and classify, but as monuments of language and exam- 
ples of the popular feeling of their time. In England these chronicles 
wear a peculiar bourgeois air, and were indeed generallj^, as in the case 
of the former of these writers, the production of worthy but not very 
highly-cultivated citizens. Mixed with much childish and insignificant 
detail, which, however, is not without its value as giving us an insight 
into the life and opinions of the age, we find an abundant store of facts 
and pictures, invaluable to the modern and more scientific historian.* 

§ 6. Among numerous works on philosophy and education (which 
now takes its place as a branch of literature) Thomas Wilson's Trea- 
tise of Logic and Rhetoric^ published in 1553, must be regarded as a 
work far superior in originality of view and correctness of literary prin- 

* The earliest English Chronicle is John de Trevisa's translation of Higden's 
* Polychronicon,' with a continuation by Caxton down to 1460, which is noticed 
on p. bb. Next comes the metrical chronicle of John Harding, coming down to 
the reign of Edward IV. (See p. 69.) Then follow the Chronicles of Fabyan and 
Hall, mentioned in the text. Fabyan's Chronicle, which he called the Concor- 
dance of Histories, begins with the fabulous stories of Brute the Trojan, and 
comes down to his own time. Hall's Chronicle, first printed by Grafton in 1548, 
under the title of The Union of the Tico Nobis and Illustrious Families of York 
tnd Lancaster, gives a history of England under the houses of York and Lancas- 
Jer, and of the reigns of Henry ^TI. and Henry VIII. 


ciple to anything that had at that time appeared in England or else- 
where, relative to a subject of the highest importance ; and the writings 
of Sir John Cheke (1514-1557) not only rendered an inestimable service 
to philology by laying the foundation of Greek studies in the Univer- 
sity of Cambridge, where he was professor, but tended powerfully to 
regulate and improve the tone of English prose. The excellent precepts 
given by Wilson and Cheke concerning the avoidance of pedantic and 
affected expressions in prose, and in particular their ridicule of the then 
prevailing vice of alliteration and exaggerated subtlety of antithesis, were 
exemplified by the grave and simple propriety of their own writings. 
To the same category as the preceding writers mentioned will belong 
Roger Ascham (1515-1568), the learned and affectionate preceptor of 
Elizabeth and the unfortunate Jane Grey. His treatise entitled the 
Schoolmaster., and the book called Toxophihcs^ devoted to the encour- 
agement of the national use of the bow, are works remarkable for the 
good sense and reasonableness of the ideas, which are expressed in a 
plain and vigorous dignity of style that would do honor to any epoch 
of literature. The plans of teaching laid down in Ascham's School- 
master have been revived in our own day as an antidote to shallow 
novelties, and his advocacy of the bow has been more than carried out 
by the modern rifle. 

§ 7. But though the popular literature of England in the reign of 
Henry VIII. naturally took, from the force of contemporary circum- 
stances, a polemical, controversial, or philosophical tone, and writers 
busied themselves chiefly about those great religious questions which 
were then exciting universal interest, there were poets who cannot be 
passed over by one desirous of forming an idea of the intellectual char- 
acter of that momentous period of transformation. John Skelton, 
the date of whose birth is unknown, but who died in 1529, was un- 
doubtedly a man of considerable classical learning. He is spoken of 
by Erasmus, who passed some time in England, where he was received 
with warm hospitality by More, and even read lectures before the Uni- 
versity of Cambridge, as " litterarum Anglicarum decus et lumen." 
He belonged to the ecclesiastical profession, was rector of Diss in Nor- 
folk, and incessantly alludes in his writings to the honor of the laurel 
which he had received from Oxford; but whether this indicates a specific 
personal distinction, conferred upon him alone, or merely an academical 
degree, is not quite clearly established. He appears also to have en- 
joyed the privilege of wearing the king's colors or livery, and to have 
been to a certain degree the object of court favor : but there is reason 
to believe that he was not remarkable for prudence or regularity of con- 
duct. His poetical productions, which are tolerably voluminous, may 
be divided into two very marked and distinct categories, his serious and 
comic or satiric writings. The former, which are either eulogistic 
poems addressed to patrons or allegorical disquisitions in a grave, lofty, 
and pretentious strain of moral declamation, will be found by the 
modern reader, who may be bold enough to examine them, insupport- 
ably stifl:', tiresome, and pedantic, exhibiting, it is true, considerable 

A. D. 14001558.] TO THE AGE OF ELIZABETH, 65 

learning, an elevated tone of ethical disquisition, and a pure and some- 
times vigorous English stjle, when the poet can free himself from the 
trammels of Latinizing pedantry : but they are destitute of invention 
and grace. These poems, however, were in all probability much ad- 
mired at a time when, English literature being as yet in its infancy, 
readers as well as writers thought more of borrowed than original con- 
ceptions, and placed learning — which was of course admired in propor- 
tion to its rarity — higher than invention. But it is in his comic and 
satirical writings that Skelton is truly original ; he struck out a path in 
literature, not very high it is true, but one in which he had no prede- 
cessors and has found no equals. He engaged, with an audacity and 
an apparent impunity which now appear equally inexplicable, in a 
series of the most furious attacks upon the then all-powerful favorite 
and minister Wolsey : and in the whole literature of libels and pas- 
quinades there is nothing bolder and more sweeping than these invec- 
tives. They are written in a peculiar short doggerel measure, the rhymes 
of which, recurring incessantly, and sometimes repeated with a rapidity 
that almost takes away the reader's breath, form an admirable vehicle 
for violent abuse, invariably couched in the most familiar language of 
the people. He has at once perfectly described and exemplified the 
character of his " breathlesse rhymes " in the following passage : — 

** For though my rime be ragged, 
Tattered and jagged, 
Rudely raine-beaten, 
Rusty and mooth-eaten, 
If ye take wel therewith 
It hath in it som pith." 

All that is coarse, quaint, odd, familiar, in the speech of the commonest 
of the people, combined with a command of learned and pedantic im- 
agery almost equal to the exhaustless vocabulary of Rabelais, is to be 
found in Skelton ; and his writings deserve to be studied, were it only 
as an abundant source of popular English. In one strange extrava- 
ganza, entitled " The Tunning of Elinour Rummyng,^^ he has described 
the attractions of the browst of a certain alewife, and the furious eager- 
ness of the women of the neighborhood to taste the barley-bree of 
Dame Rummyng, who is said to have been a real person and to have 
kept an alehouse at Leatherhead, in Surrey. Elinour and her establish- 
ment, and her thirsty customers, are painted with extraordinary hu- 
mor and with a vast fecundity of images, some of which are so coarse as 
to exceed all bounds of moderation and even of decency. Of the 
humor, knowledge of low life, and force of imagination displayed, there 
can be but one opinion. Another very strange pleasantry of this 
humorist is the Boke of the Sparrow, a sort of dirge or lamentation on 
the death of a tame sparrow, the favorite of a young lady who belonged 
to a Convent. The bird was unfortunately killed by a cat, and after 
devoting this cat in particular and the whole race of cats in general to 
eternal punishment in a sort of humorous excommunication, the poet 
proceeds to describe a funeral service performed, for the repose of Philip 
6* ^ 


Sparrow's soul, bj all the birds ; in which we have a parody of the vari- 
ous parts of the Catholic funeral ritual. In this work, as well as in 
most of Skelton's writings, we find Latin and French freely inter- 
mingled with his nervous and popular English ; and this singularly 
heightens the comic effect. Skelton's purely satiric productions are 
principally directed against Wolsey, and against the Scottish king and 
nation, over whose fatal defeat at Flodden the railing satirist exults in a 
manner unworthy of a generous spirit. His principal attacks upon 
Wolsey are to be found in the poems entitled the Booke of Colin Clout, 
W/iy Come Te not to Court, and the Bouge of Court. 

Two poets, who flourished nearly at the same time, Stephen Hawes 
and Alexander Barklay, deserve mention for the influence they exerted 
on the intellectual character of their age, though their writings have 
fallen into neglect. Stephen Hawes (fl. 1509), the elder of the two, 
whom Warton describes as the " only writer deserving the name of a 
poet in the reign of Henry VII.," was a favorite of that monarch, and 
the author of the Pastime of Pleasure, a long and in many passages a 
striking allegorical poem in the versification of old Lydgate. Alexan- 
der Barklay, who lived a little later under Henry VIII. and died at an 
advanced age, at Croydon, in Surrey, in 1552, translated into English 
verse Sebastian Brandt's once-celebrated satire of the Ship of Fools, 
an epitome of the various forms of pedantry and aflfectation.* In the 
writings of \)oth we see the rapid development of flexibility and har- 
mony of English versification, the approach to that consummate per- 
fection which was at no long period to be attained by Spenser and 
Shakspeare, under the influence, particularly in the former case, of the 
enlightened imitation of Italian metrical melody. How rapid this 
progress in taste and refinement really was, may be deduced from an 
examination of the poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt (the elder) and the 
Earl of Surrey, who were nearly contemporaries in their lives and 
early deaths. The former was born in 1503, and died in 1541 ; the 
second, one of the most illustrious members of the splendid house of 
Howard, was born in 1517, and beheaded, under a false and absurd 
charge of high treason, by Henry VIII., in 1547. Both these nobles were 
men of rare virtues and accomplishments, Wyatt the type of the wit 
and statesman, and Surrey of the gallant cavalier; and both enjoyed 
a high popularity as poets. In their works we plainly trace the Italian 
spirit, and the style of their poems, though not free from that amorous 
and metaphysical casuistry which the example of Petrarch long ren- 
dered so universal throughout Europe, is singularly free from harshness 
of expression and that uncouthness of form which is perceptible in the 
earlier attempts of English poetry. 

Surrey may justly be regarded as the first English classical poet. He 
was the first who introduced blank verse into our English poetry, which 
he employed in translating the second and fourth books of Virgil's 
^neid. " Surrey," says Mr. Hallam, " did much for his own country 

* Brandt was a learned civilian of Basel, and published in 1494 a satire la 
German with, the above title. 

A. D. 1400-1558.] TO THE AGE OF ELIZABETH. 67 

and his native language. His versification differs very considerably 
from that of his predecessors. He introduced a sort of involution into 
his style, which gives an air of dignity and remoteness from common 
life. It was, in fact, borrowed from the license of Italian poetry, which 
our own idiom has rejected. He avoids pedantic words, forcibly ob- 
truded from the Latin, of which our earlier poets, both English and 
Scots, had been ridiculously fond. The absurd epithets of Hoccleve, 
Lydgate, Dunbar, and Douglas are applied equally to the most different 
things, so as to show that they annexed no meaning to them. Surrey 
rarely lays an unnatural stress on final syllables, merely as such, which 
they would not receive in ordinary pronunciation — another usual trick 
of the school of Chaucer. His words are well chosen and well ar- 
ranged." Wj-att is inferior to Surrey in harmony of numbers and ele- 
gance of sentiment. Their " Songs and Sonnettes " were first collected 
and printed at London by Tottel, in 1557, in his Miscellany, which was ^, 
the first printed poetical miscellany in the English language. y^*^^*^^ 

§ 8. I cannot better conclude this transitional or intercalary chapter^ 
than by making a few remarks on a peculiar class of compositions in 
which England is unusually rich, which are marked with an intense 
impress of nationality, and which have exerted, on modern literature 
in particular, an influence v/hose extent it is impossible to overrate. 
These are our national Ballads, produced, it is probable, in great 
abundance during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and in many 
instances traceable to the " North Countree," or the Border region 
between England and Scotland. This country, as the scene of inces- 
sant forays from both sides of the frontier during the uninterrupted 
warfare between the two countries, was naturally the theatre of a mul- 
titude of wild and romantic episodes, consigned to memory in the rude 
strains of indigenous minstrels. No country indeed (excepting Spain* 
in the admirable romances which commemorate the long struggle 
between the Christians and the Moors, and the collection containing 
the cycle of the Cid) possesses anything similar in kind or comparable ^ 

in merit to the old ballads of England. They bear the marks of having ^ 

been composed, somewhat like the Rhapsodies of the old Ionian bards ^ 

from which the mysterious personality whom we call Homer derived V 
at once his materials and his inspiration, by rude wandering min- 
strels. Such men — probably often blind or otherwise incapacitated 
from taking part in active life — gained their bread by singing or 
repeating them. These poets and narrators were a very different class 
from the wandering troubadours or jongleurs of Southern Europe and 
of France ; and living in a country much ruder and less chivalric, ^ 
though certainly not less warlike than Languedoc or Provence, their 
compositions are inimitable for simple pathos, fiery intensity of feeling, 
and picturesqueness of description. In every country there must exist 
some tj'pical or national form of versification, adapted to the genius of 
the language and to the mode of declamation or musical accompani- 
ment generally employed for assisting the effect. Thus the legendary 
poetry of the Greeks naturally took the form of the Homeric hexam- 


eter, and that of the Spaniards the loose asonante versification, as in 
the ballads of the Cid, so well adapted to the accompaniment of the 
guitar. The English ballads, almost without exception, affect the 
iambic measure of twelve or fourteen syllables, rhyming in couplets, 
which, however, naturally divide themselves, by means of the ccesura 
or pause, into stanzas of four lines, the rhymes generally occurring at 
the end of the second and fourth verses. This form of metre is found 
predominating throughout all these interesting relics ; and was itself, 
in all probability, a relic of the old long unrhymed alliterative measure, 
examples of which may be seen in the Lay of Gamelyn, or in the more 
recent Vision of Piers Plowman. The breaking up of the long lines 
into short hemistichs, to which I have just alluded, may have been 
originally nothing but a means for facilitating the copying of the lines 
into a page too narrow to admit them at full length : and the readiness 
with which these lines divide themselves into such hemistichs may be 
observed by a comparison with the long metre of the old German 
Nibelungen Lied, each two lines of which can be easily broken up 
into a stanza of four, the rhymes being then confined, as in the English 
ballads, to the second and fourth lines. 

Written or composed by obscure and often illiterate poets, these pro- 
ductions were frequently handed down only by tradition from genera- 
tion to generation : it is to the taste and curiosity, perhaps only to the 
family pride, of collectors, that we owe the accident by which some of 
them were copied and preserved ; the few that were ever printed, being 
destined for circulation only among the poorest class, were confided to 
the meanest typography and to flying sheets, or broadsides, as they are 
termed by collectors. Vast numbers of them — perhaps not inferior to 
the finest that have been preserved — have perished forever. The first 
considerable collection of these ballads was published, with most agree- 
able and valuable notes, by Bishop Thomas Percy, in 1765, and it is 
to his example that we owe, not only the preservation of these invalu- 
ble relics, but the immense revolution produced, by their study and 
imitation, in the literature of the present century. It is no exaggera- 
tion to say that the old English ballads had the greatest share in bring- 
ing about that immense change in taste and feeling which characterizes 
the revival of romantic poetry; and that the relics of the rude old moss- 
trooping rhapsodists of the Border, in a great measure, generated the 
admirable inspirations of Walter Scott. Constructed, like the Homeric 
rhapsodies or the Romances of Spain, upon a certain regular model, 
these ballads, like the productions just mentioned, abound in certain 
regularly recurring passages, turns of expression and epithets : these 
must be regarded as the mechanical or received aids to the composer 
in his task; but these commonplaces are incessantly enlivened by some 
stroke of picturesque description, some vivid painting of natural objects, 
some burst of simple heroism, or some touch of pathos. Among the 
oldest and finest of these works I may cite " the grand old ballad " of 
Sir Patrick Spens, the Battle of Otterburne, Chevy Chase, the Death 
of Douglas^ all commemorating some battle, foray, 01 military exploit 



of the Border. The class of which the above are striking specimens, 
bear evident marks, in their subjects and the dialect in which thej are 
composed, of a Northern, Scottish, or at least Border origin : it would 
be unjust not to mention that there exist large numbers, and those often 
of no inferior merit, which are distinctly traceable to an English — 
meaning a South British — source. To this class will belong the 
immense cycle or collection of ballads describing the adventures of the 
famous outlaw Robin Hood, and his " merry men." This legendary 
personage is described in such a multitude of episodes, that he must be 
considered a sort of national type of English character. Whether 
Robin Hood ever actually existed, or whether, like William Tell, he 
be merely a popular myth, is a question that perhaps no research will 
ever succeed in deciding : but the numerous ballads recounting his 
exploits form a most beautiful and valuable repertory of national tra- 
dition and national traits of character. In the last-mentioned class of 
ballads, viz. those of purely English origin, the curious investigator 
will trace the resistance opposed by the oppressed class oi yeomen to 
the tj'-ranny of Norman feudalism ; and this point has been turned to 
admirable account by Walter Scott in his romance of Ivankoe, in those 
exquisitely delineated scenes of which Robin Hood, under the name 
of the outlaw Locksley, is the hero. In these compositions we see 
manifest traces of the rough, vigorous spirit of popular, as contradis- 
tinguished from aristocratic, feeling. They commemorate the hostility 
of the English people against their Norman tyrants : and the bold and 
joyous sentiment which prevails in them is strongly contrasted with 
the lofty and exclusive tone pervading the Trouvere legends. 



From the death of Chaucer there is a dreary blank 
in the history of English poetry. The first writer 
•who deserves mention is 

Thomas Occleve (fl. 1420), a lawyer in the 
reign of Henry V. But he hardly deserves the name 
of a poet, as his verses are feeble and stupid. Very 
few of hie poems have been printed. 

John Lydgate (fl. 1430) is a writer of greater 
merit. He was a monk of Bury, in Suffolk; he 
travelled into France and Italy, and was well ac- 
quainted with the literature of both countries. He 
wrote a large number of poems, of which one of the 
most celebrated is a translation of Boccaccio's Fall 
of Princes, which he describes as a series of Trage- 
dies. His two other larger works are, the Stcny of 
Thebes translated from Statins, and the History of 
the Siege of Troy. Gray formed a high opinion of 
his poetical powers. " I pretend not," he says, " to 
set him on a level with Chaucer, but he certainly 
comes the nearest to him of any contemporary 
writer I ani acquainted with. His choice of expres- 
bIoo, and the smoothness of his verse, far surpass 

both Gower and Occleve. He wanted not art in 
raising the more tender emotions of the mind." 

John Harding (fl. 1470) wrote in verse a Chron- 
icle of England, coming down to the reign of Ed- 
ward IV., to whom he dedicated the work. The 
poetry is wretched, and desen'es only the attention 
of the antiquary. 

The Scottish Poetry occupies a higher place 
than the English in the fifteenth and the first half 
of the sixteenth centuries. Babbour and Wynton 
belong to the fourteenth century, and are spoken of 
in the Notes and Illustrations to the preceding 
chapter (p. 55). They are followed by James I., 
Dunbar, GA■v^^N Douglas, Henryson, and 
Blind Harry, mentioned in the text (pp. 60, 61). 
To these should be added Sir David Lyndsay 
(1490-1557), the Lyon King at Arms, and the friend 
and companion of James V. His poems are said to 
have contributed to the Reformation in Scotland. 
In his satires he attacked the clergy with great 
severity. " But in the ordinary style of his versifi- 
cation he seems not to rise much above the prosaic 
and tedious rhymers of the fifteenth century. Bis 



descriptions are as circumstantial without selection 
as theirs; and his language, partaking of a ruder 
dialect, is still more removed from our own." 

It has been remarked above (see p. 67) that Surrey 
and Wyatt's poems were published in Tottel's Mis- 
cellany, which was the first printed poetical miscel- 
lany in the English language. Among the other 
contributors to this collection, though their names 
are not mentioned, were SiK FKANCIS BRYAN, the 
nephew of Lord Berners, the translator of Froissart, 
and one of the brilliant ornaments of the court of 
FOKD, the brother of Anne Boleyn, beheaded in 
1,536; Thomas, Lord Vaux, Captain of the Island 
of Jersey under Henry VIII., some of whose poems 
are also printed in the collection called the " Para- 
dise of Dainty Devices" (seep. 8.5), and who is 
described by Puttenham in his Art of Poesie as " a 
man of much facilitie in vulgar makings ; " and 
KiCHOLAS Gkimoald (about 1520-1563), a lecturer 
at Oxford, whose initials, N. G., are attached to 
his " Songes " in Tottel's Miscellany, lie was a 
learned scholar, and translated into English some 
of the Latin and Greek classics. 

To this period, rather than to that of Elizabeth, 
belongs TllOMAS Tl'SSEB (1527-1580), one of the 
earliest of our didactic poets, who was born at 
Rivenhall in Essex, was educated at Cambridge, 
and passed two years at court under the patronage 
of William, Lord Paget. He' afterwards settled as a 
farmer at Cattiwade in Sufiblk, where he wrote his 
work on Husbandry, of which the first edition 
appeared in 1557, under the title of " A Hundreth 
Good Pointes of Husbandrie." He practised farm- 
ing iu other parts of the country, was a singing 
man in Norwich cathedral, and died poor in Lon- 
don. His work, after going through four editions, 
was published in an enlarged form in 1577, under 
the title of " Five Hundred Points of Good Hus- 
bandrie, united to as many of Good Huswiferie." 
It is written in familiar verse, and " is valuable as a 
genuine picture of the agriculture, the rural arts, 
and the domestic economy and customs of our 
industrious ancestors." (Warton.) 

One of the chief prose writers of the fifteenth 
century was Pecock (fl. 1450), Bishop of Asaph, 
and afterwards of Chichester. Though he wrote 
against the Lollards, his own theological views 
were regarded with suspicion, and he was, in 1457, 
obliged to recant, was deprived of his bishopric, 
md passed the rest of his life in a conventual prison. 
His ijrincipal work, entitled the liepressor of over- 
much blaming of the Clergy, appeared in 1449. 
There is an excellent edition of this work by C. 
Babington, 1863. With respect to its language, 
Mr. Marsh observes that, " although, in diction and 
arrangement of sentences, the Repressor \s much in 
advance of the chroniclers of Pecock's age, the 
grammar, both in accidence and S3'ntax, is in many 
points nearly where Wiclilfe had left it ; and it is 
of course in these respects considerably behind that 

of the contemporary poetical writers. Thus, whila 
these latter authors, as well as some of earlier date, 
employ the objective plural pronoun Ihem, and the 
plural possessive pronoun their, Pecock writes al- 
ways hem for the personal and her for the posses- 
sive pronoun. These pronominal forms soon fell 
into disuse, and they are hardly to be met with iu 
any English writer of later date than Pecock. 
With respect to one of them, however, — the objec- 
tive hem for them, — it may be remarked that it has 
not become obsolete in colloquial speech to the 
present day ; for in such phrases as I saw 'em, I told 
'em, and the like, the pronoun em (or 'em) is nut. 
as is popularly supposed, a vulgar corruption of 
the full pronoun them, which alone is found in 
modern books, but it is the true Anglo-Saxon and 
old English objective plural, which, in our spoken 
dialect, has remained unchanged for a thousand 

Sir Thomas Maeoey (fl. 1470), the compiler and 
translator of the Morte Arthur, or History of King 
Arthur, printed by Caxton in 1485. Caxton, in his 
preface, says that Sir Tliomas Malory took the work 
out of certain books in French, and reduced it into 
English. It is a compilation from some of the most 
popular romances of the Round Table. The stylo 
deserves great praise. See also p. 32, B. 

John Fishee (1459-1535), Bishop of Rochester, 
put to death by Henry VIII., along with Sir Thomas 
More. Besides hib Latin works he wrote some 
sermons in English. 

Sir Thomas Elyot (d. 1546), an eminent 
scholar in the reign of Henry VIII., by whom he 
was employed in several embassies. He shares 
with Sir Thomas More the praise of being one of 
the earliest English prose writers of value. Ilia 
principal work is The Governor, published in 1531, 
a treatise upon education, in which he deprecates 
the ill-treatment to which boys were exposed at 
school at this period. 

John Leland (1506-1552), the eminent antiquary, 
was educated at St. Paul's School, London, and at 
Oxford and Cambridge. He received several eccle- 
siastical preferments from Henry VIII., who also 
gave him the title of the King's Antiquary. Besides 
his Latin works he wrote in English his Itinerary, 
giving an account of his travels, a work still of 
great value for English topography. 

George Cavendish (d. 1557), not Sir William, 
as frequently stated, was gentleman-usher to Car- 
dinal Wolsey, and wrote the life of the Cardinal, 
from which Shakspeare has taken many passages in 
his Henry VIII. 

John Bellenden (d. 1350), Archdean of Mo- 
ray, in the reign of James V., deserves mention as 
one of the earliest prose writers in Scotland. His 
translation of the Scottish History of Boethius, or 
Boecius (Bocce), was published in 1537. 

John Bale (1495-1563), Bishop of Ossory in Ire- 
land, was the author of several theological works, 
and of some dramatic interludes on sacred subjects 
(see p. 114). But the work by which he is best 
known is in Latin, containing an account of illus- 
trious writers in Great Britain from Japhet to th« 
year 1559. 



JAMES I.). A. D. 1558-1625. 

§ 1. Characteristics of the Elizabethan age of Literature. § 2. The less known 
writers of this period : Gascoigne ; Turberville ; Thomas Sackville, 
Lord Buckhurst. § 3. Edmund Spenser : his personal history ; the Shej)- 
herd's Calendar; his friendship with Harvey and Sidney ; favored by Leicester 
and Elizabeth ; disappointments at court; residence in Ireland ; misfortunes, 
and death. § 4. Analysis and criticism of the Fa^ry Queen : brilliancy of 
imagination ; defects of plan ; allusions to persons and events. § 5. Detailed 
analysis of the Second Book, or the Legend of Te7nperance. § 6. Versifica- 
tion of the poem ; adaptation of the language in the metre ; Spenser's bold- 
ness in dealing with English. § 7. Character of Spenser's genius : his minor 
works. ^8. Sir Philip Sidney: his accomplishments and heroic death: 
his Sonnets, Arcadia, and Defence of Poesy. § 9. Other leading Poets of the 
age: — (i.) Daniel; (ii.) Drayton; (iii.) Sir John Davies ; (iv.) John 
Donne; (v.) Bishop Hall; English Satire. § 10. Minor Poets: Phineas 
and Giles Fletcher ; Churchyard ; the Jesuit Southavell ; Fairfax, the 
translator of Tasso. 

§ 1. The Age of Elizabeth is characterized by features which cause 
it to stand alone in the literary history of the world. It was a period 
of sudden emancipation of thought, of immense fertility and origi- 
nality, and of high and generally diffused intellectual cultivation. 
The language, thanks to the various causes indicated in the preceding 
chapters, had reached its highest perfection ; the study and the imita- 
tion of ancient or foreign models had furnished a vast store of materi- 
als, images and literary forms, which had not yet had time to become 
commonplace and overworn. The poets and prose writers of this age, 
therefore, united the freshness and vigor of youth with the regularity 
and majesty of manhood ; and nothing can better demonstrate the 
intellectual activity of the epoch than the number of excellent works 
which have become obsolete in the present day, solely from their merits 
having been eclipsed by the glories of a few incomparable names, as 
those of Spenser in romantic and of Shakspeare in dramatic poetry. It 
will be my task to give a rapid sketch of some of the great works 
thus " darkened with the excess of light." 

§ 2. The first name is that of George Gascoigne (1530-1577), who, 
as one of the founders of the great English school of the drama, as a 
satirist, as a narrative and as a lyric poet, enjoyed a high popularity 
for art and genius. His most important production, in point of length, 
is a species of moral or satiric declamation entitled the Steel Glass, 
in which he inveighs against the vices and follies of his time. It is 
written in, blank verse, and is one of the earliest examples of that kind 


of metre, so well adapted to the genius of the English language, and 
in which, independently of the drama, so many important composi- 
tions were afterwards to be written. The versification of Gascoigne in 
this work, though somewhat harsh and monotonous, is dignified and 
regular; and the poem evinces close observation of life and a lofty tone 
of morality. His career was a very active one ; he figured on the bril- 
liant stage of the court, took part in a campaign in Holland against 
the Spaniards, and has commemorated some of the unfortunate inci- 
dents of this expedition in a poem in seven-lined stanzas, entitled The 
Fruits of War ; and many of his minor compositions are well deserv- 
ing of perusal. He was an example of a type of literary men which 
abounded in England at that period, in which the active and contem- 
plative life were harmoniously combined, and which brought the acqui- 
sitions of the study to bear upon the interests of real life. 

Nearly contemporary with this poet was George Turbervile 
(1530-1594), whose writing^s exhibit a less vigorous invention than 
those of Gascoigne. He very frequently employed a peculiar modifica- 
tion of the old English ballad stanza which was extremely fashionable 
at this period. The modification consists in the third line, instead of 
being of equal length to the first, viz. of six syllables, containing eight. 
It must not, however, be understood from this that Turbervile did 
not employ a great variety of other metrical arrangements. The 
majority of his writings consist of love epistles, epitaphs, and compli- 
mentary verses. "^^^^ 

A poet whose writings, of a lofty, melancholy, and moral tone, un- 
doubtedly exerted a great influence at a critical period in the formation 
of the English literature, was Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst 
(1536-1608), a person of high political distinction, having filled the ofiice 
of Lord High Treasurer. It was for his children that Ascham wrote 
the Schoolmaster. He projected, and himself commenced, a work 
entitled A Mirrour for Magistrates^ which was intended to contain a 
series of tragic examples of the vicissitudes of fortune, drawn from the 
annals of his own country, serving as lessons of virtue to future kings 
and statesmen, and as warnings of the fragility of earthly greatness 
and success. Sackville composed the Liduction (Introduction) of this 
grave and dignified work, and also the first legend or complaint, in which 
are commemorated the power and the fall of the Duke of Buckingham, 
favorite and victim of the tyrannical Richard III. The poem was 
afterwards continued by other writers in the same style, though gener- 
ally with a perceptible diminution of grandeur and effect. Such collec- 
tions of legends or short poetical biographies, in which celebrated and 
unfortunate sufferers were introduced, bewailing their destiny, or warn- 
ing mankind against crime and ambition, were frequent in literature at 
an earlier period. Chaucer's Monk's Tale, and the same poet's Legend 
of Good Women, are in plan and character not dissimilar: nay, the 
origin of such a form of composition may be traced even to the vast 
ethical collection of the Gesta Romanorum, if not to a still higher 
antiquity; for the Heroides of Ovid, though confined to the sufferings 

A. D. 1558-1599.] SPENSER. 73 

of unhappy love, form a somewhat similar gallery of examples. The 
Mirrour for Magistrates is written in stanzas of seven lines, and 
exhibits great occasional power of expression, and a remarkable force 
and compression of language, though the general tone is gloomy and 
somewhat monotonous. Some of the lines reach a high elevation 
of sombre picturesqueness, as these, of old age : — 

" His scalp all pilled, and he with eld forlore, 
His withered fist still knocking at death's door," 

which is strikingly like what Chaucer himself would have written.* 

§ 3. A period combining a scholar-like imitation of antiquity and of 
foreign contemporary literature, principally that of Italy, with the 
force, freshness, and originality of the dawn of letters in England, might 
have been fairly expected, even a priori^ to produce a great imagina- 
tive and descriptive work of poetry. The illustrious name of Edmund 
Spenser (1553-1599) occupies a place among the writers of England 
similar to that of Ariosto among those of Italy; and the union in his 
works — and particularly in his greatest work, the Fatry ^ueen — of 
original invention and happy use of existing materials, fully warrants 
the unquestioned verdict which names him as the greatest English poe< 
intervening between Chaucer and Shakspeare. His career was brilliant, 
but unhappy. Born in 1553, a cadet of the illustrious family whose 
name he bore, though not endowed with fortune, he was educated at 
the University of Cambridge, where he undoubtedly acquired an 
amount of learning remarkable even in that age of solid and substantial 
studies. He is supposed, after leaving the University, to have been 
compelled to perform the functions of domestic tutor in the North of 
England; and to have gained his first fame by the publication of the 
Shepherd's Calendar, a series of pastorals divided into twelve parts or 
months, in which, as in Virgil's Bucolics, under the guise of idjdlic 
dialogues, his imaginary interlocutors discuss high questions of morality 
and state, and pay refined compliments to illustrious personages. In these 
eclogues Spenser endeavored to give a national air to his work, by painting 
English scenery and the English climate, by selecting English names for 
his rustic persons, and by infusing into their language many provincial 
and obsolete expressions. The extraordinary superiority, in power of 
thought and harmony of language, exhibited by the Shepherd's Calen- 
dar, immediately placed Spenser among the highest poetical names of 
his day, and attracted the favor and patronage of the great. The 
young poet had been closely connected, by friendship and the com- 
munity of tastes and studies, with the learned Gabriel Harvey — a man 
of unquestionable genius, but rendered ridiculous by certain literary 
hobbies, as, for example, by a mania for employing the ancient classical 
metres, founded on quantity, in English verse; and he for some time 
infected Spenser with his own freaks. Through Harvey, Spenser 
acquired the notice and favor of the accomplished Sidney; and it was 

* For a further account of the Mirrour for Magistrates, see Notes and Illus- 
trations (A). 



at Penshurst, the line mansion of the latter, that he is supposed to have 
revised the Shepherd's Calendar, which he dedicated, under the title 
of the Poet's Tear, to " Maister Philip Sidney, worthy of all titles, both 
of Chivalry and Poesy." Sidney, in his turn, recommended Spenser 
to Dudley Earl of Leicester, and the powerful favorite brought the 
poet under the personal notice of Elizabeth herself. The great queen, 
surfeited as she was with all the refinements of literary homage, certainly 
had not, among the throng of poets that filled her court, a worshipper 
whose incense arose before her altar in richer or more fragrant clouds ; 
but the poet, in his court career, naturally exposed himself to the hos- 
tility of those who were the enemies of his protectors ; and there are 
several traditions which relate the disappointments experienced by 
Spenser at the hands of the great minister Burleigh, whose influence 
on the mind of his mistress was too firmly established to be seriously 
shaken by the Queen's attachment to her favorites. Spenser has left us 
a gloomy picture of the miseries of courtly dependence. The poet 
appears to have been occasionally employed in unimportant diplomatic 
services; but on the nomination of Lord Grey de Wilton as Deputy or 
Lieutenant of Ireland, Spenser accompanied him to that country as 
secretarj^, and received a grant of land not far from Cork, which he was 
to occupy and cultivate. This estate had formed part of the domains 
of the Earls of Desmonc^, and had been forfeited or confiscated by the 
English Government. Spenser resided several years at Kilcolman 
Castle, during which timiC he exercised various important administra- 
tive functions in the government of the then newly-subjugated country. 
It was during his residence in Ireland that he composed the most im- 
portant of his works, among which the first place is occupied by his great 
poem of the Fa^ry ^ticen. About twelve years after his first establish- 
ment in the province of Munster, the flame of revolt, communicated 
from the great rebellion called Tyrone's Insurrection, which had been 
raging in the neighboring province of Ulster, spread to the region 
which surrounded Spenser's retreat. He had probably rendered him- 
self hateful to the half-savage Celtic population whom the English 
colonists had ejected and oppressed : indeed the very curious little work 
entitled A View of the State of Ireland, in which he has described the 
curious manners and customs of the indigenous race, indicates plainly 
enough that the poet shared the prejudices of his race and position. 
Kilcolman Castle was attacked and burned by the insurgents. Spenser 
and his family escaped with difficulty, and with the loss not only of all they 
possessed, but with the still more cruel bereavement of a young child, 
which was left behind and perished in the house. Completely ruined, 
and overwhelmed by so tragic an affliction, the poet returned to Lon- 
don, where he is reported to have died in the greatest poverty, forgotten 
by the court and neglected by his patrons, in 1599. ^^ was, however, 
followed to the grave with the unanimous admiration of his country- 
men, who bewailed in his death the loss of the greatest poet of his age. 
He M'-as buried Vv'ith great pomp in Westminster Abbey, near the tomb 
of Chaucer. 

A. D. 1558-1599.] SPEK8ER. 75 

§ 4. Spenser's greatest work, The Faery ^ueen^ is a poem the sub- 
ject of which is chivalric, allegorical, narrative, and descriptive, while 
the execution is in a great measure derived from the manner of Ariosto 
and Tasso. It was originally planned to consist of twelve books or 
moral adventures, each typifying the triumph of a Virtue, and couched 
under the form of an exploit of knight-errantry. The hero of the 
whole action was to be the mythical Prince Arthur, the type of perfect 
virtue in Spenser, as he is the ideal hero in the vast collection of 
medicEval legends in which he figures. This fabulous personage is sup- 
posed to become enamoured of the FaSry Queen, who appears tojiim 
in a dream ; and arriving at her court in Fairy-Land he finds her hold- 
ing a solemn feudal festival during twelve days. At her court there is 
a beautiful lady for whose hand the twelve most distinguished knights 
are rivals ; and in order to settle their pretensions these twelve heroes 
undertake twelve separate adventures, which furnish the materials for 
the action. The First Book relates the expedition of the Red-Cross 
Knight, who is the allegorical representative of Holiness, while his 
mistress Una represents true Religiojt ; and thef action of the knighf s 
exploit shadows forth the triumph of Holiness over the enchantments 
and deceptions of Heresy. The Second Book recounts the adventures 
of Sir Guyon, or Temperance ; the Third those of Britomartis — a 
female champion — or Chastity. It must be remarked that each of 
these books is subdivided into twelve cantos, consequently that the 
poem, even in the imperfect form under which we possess it, is ex- 
tremely voluminous. The three first books were published separately 
in 1590, and dedicated to Elizabeth, who rewarded the delicate flattery 
which pervades innumerable allusions in the work with a pension of 
50/. a year. After returning to Ireland Spenser prosecuted his work; 
and in 1596 he gave to the world three more books, namely, the Fourth, 
containing the Legend of Cambell and Triamond, allegorizing Friend- 
skip ; the Fifth, the Legend of Artegall, or of Justice ; and the Sixth, 
that of Sir Calidore, or Courtesy. Thus half of the poet's original 
design was executed. What progress he made in the six remaining 
books it is now impossible to ascertain. There are traditions which 
assert that this latter portion was completed, but that the manuscript 
was lost at sea ; while the more probable theory is, that Spenser had 
not time to terminate his extensive plan, but that the dreadful misfor- 
tunes amid which his life was closed prevented him from completing 
his design. The fragment consisting of two cantos of Mutability was 
intended to be inserted in the legend of Constancy, one of the books 
projected. The vigor, invention, and splendor of expression that glow 
so brightly in the first three books, manifestly decline in the fourth, 
fifth, and sixth; and it is perhaps no matter of regret that the poet 
never completed so vast a design, in which the very nature of the plan 
necessitated a monotony that not all his fertility of genius could have 
obviated. We may apply to the Faery ^ueen the paradox of Hesiod 
— " the half is more than the whole." In this poem are united and 
harmonized three different elements which at first sight would appear 


trreconctlable; for the skeleton or framework of the action is derived 
from the feudal or chivalric legends; the ethical or moral sentiment 
from the lofty philosophy of Plato, combined with the most elevated 
Christian purity; and the form and coloring of the language and ver- 
sification are saturated with the flowing grace and sensuous elegance of 
the great Italian poets of the Renaissance. The principal defects of 
the Fadry ^ueen, viewed as a whole, arise from two causes apparently 
opposed, yet resulting in a similar impression on the reader. The first 
is a want of unity, involving a loss of interest in the story ; for we alto- 
gether forget Arthur, the nominal hero of the whole, and follow each 
separate adventure of the subordinate knights. Each book is therefore, 
intrinsically, a separate poem, and excites a separate interest. The 
other defect is the monotony of character inseparable from a series of 
adventures which, though varied with inexhaustible fertility, are all, 
from their chivalric nature, fundamentally similar, being either com- 
bats between one knight and another, or between the hero of the 
moment and some supernatural being — a monster, a dragon, or a 
wicked enchanter, Irf these contests, however brilliantly painted, we 
feel little or no suspense, for we are beforehand nearly certain of the 
victory of the hero ; and even if this were otherwise, the knowledge 
that the valiant champion is himself nothing but the impersonation of 
some abstract quality or virtue, would be fatal to that interest with 
which we follow the vicissitudes of human fortunes. Hardly any degree 
of genius or invention can long sustain the interest of an allegory; 
and where the intense realism of Bunyan has only partially succeeded, 
the unreal phantasmagoria of Spenser's imagination, brilliant as it 
was, could not do other than fail. The strongest proof of the justice 
of these remarks will be found in the fact that those who read Spenser 
with the intensest delight are precisely those who entirely neglect the 
moral lessons typified in his allegory, and endeavor to follow his recital 
of adventures as those of human beings, giving themselves voluntarily 
up to the mighty magic of his unequalled imagination. Another result 
flowing from the above considerations is, that Spenser, though ex- 
tremely monotonous and tiresome to an ordinary reader, who deter- 
mines to plod doggedly through two or three successive books of the 
FaGry ^ueen, is the most enchanting of poets to him who, endowed 
with a lively fancy, confines his attention to one or two at a time of his 
delicious episodes, descriptions, or impersonations. Independently of 
the general allegorical meaning of the persons and adventures, it must 
be remembered that many of these were also intended to contain allu- 
sions to facts and individuals of Spenser's own time, and particularly 
to convey compliments to his friends and patrons. Thus Gloriana, the 
Faery Queen herself, and the beautiful huntress Belphoebc, were in- 
tended to allude to Elizabeth; Sir Artegall, the Knight of Justice, to 
Lord Grey; and the adventures of the Red-Cross Knight shadow forth 
the history of the Anglican Church. In all probability a multitude of 
such allusions, now become obscure, were clear enough, when the poem 
first appeared, to those who were familiar with the courtly and political 

A. D. 1558-1599.] SPENSER. 77 

life of the time ; but the modern reader, I think, will little regret the 
dimness in which time has plunged these allusions, for they only still 
further complicate an allegory which of itself often detracts from the 
charm and interest of the narrative. 

§ 5. As a specimen of Spenser's mode of conducting his allegory, 
I will give here a rapid analysis of the Second Book, or the Legend of 
Temperance. In Canto I. the wicked enchanter, Archimage, meeting 
Sir Guyon, informs him that a fair lady, whom the latter supposes to 
be Una, but who is really Duessa, has been foully outraged by the Red- 
Cross Knight. Guyon, led by Archimage, meets the Red-Cross Knight, 
and is on the point of attacking him, when the two champions recog- 
nize each other, and, after courteous conference, part. Sir Guyon then 
hears the despairing cry of a lady, and finds Amaria, newly stabbed, 
lying beside a knight (Sir Mordant), and holding in her lap a babe with 
his hands stained by its mother's blood. After relating her story, the 
lady dies. Canto II. describes Sir Guyon's unsuccessful attempts to 
wash the babe's bloody hands. He then finds his steed gone, and pro- 
ceeds on foot to the Castle of Golden Mean, where dwell also her two 
sisters, Elissa and Perissa — Too Little and Too Much — with theii 
knights. Canto III. describes the adventures of the Boaster, Bragadoc- 
chio, who has stolen Guyon's steed, but who is ignominiously com- 
pelled to give it up, and is abandoned by Belphcebe, of whom this 
canto contains a description, of consummate beauty. In Canto IV. 
Guyon delivers Phaon from the violence of Furor and the malignity 
of the hag Occasion. Canto V. describes the combat of Guyon with 
Pyrochles, who unbinds Fury, and is then wounded by him ; and Atin 
lies to obtain the aid of Cymochles. Canto VI. gives a most rich and 
exquisite picture of the temptation of Guyon by the Lady of the Idle 
Lake. In Canto VII. is contained the admirable description of the 
Cave of Mammon, who tempts Sir Guyon with riches. The Vlllth 
Canto depicts Guyon in his trance, disarmed by the sons of Aerates, 
and delivered by Arthur. Canto IX. describes the House of Temper- 
ance inhabited by Alma. This is a most ingenious and beautifully 
developed allegory of the human body and mind, each part and faculty 
being typified. Canto X. gives a chronicle of the ancient British kings 
down to the reign of Gloriana, or Elizabeth. In the Xlth canto the 
Castle of Temperance is besieged, and delivered by Arthur. The 
Xllth and last canto of this book describes the attack of Guyon upon 
the Bower of Bliss, and the ultimate defeat of Acrasia or Sensual 
Pleasure. From this very rough and meagre analysis, which is all 
that my limits will permit, the reader may in some measure judge of 
the conduct of the fable in Spenser's great poem. 

§ 6. The versification of the work is a peculiar stanza, based upon 
the ottava rima so universally employed hy the romantic and narrative 
poets of Italy, and of which the masterpieces of Tasso and Ariosto 
furnish familiar examples. To the eight lines composing this form of 
metre, Spenser's exquisite taste and consummate ear for harmony 
induced him to add a ninth, which, being of twelve instead of, as in 


the others, ten syllables, winds up each phrase with a long, lingering 
cadence of the most delicious melody. I have already observed how 
extensively the forms of Italian versification — as in the various exam- 
ples of the sonnet and the heroic stanza — had been adopted by the 
English poets; and I have insisted, particularly in the case of Chaucer, 
on the skill with which our language, naturally rude, monosyllabic, and 
unharmonious, had been softened and melodized till it was little infe- 
rior, in power of musical expression, to the tongues of Southern Europe. 
None of our poets is more exquisitely and uniformly musical than 
Spenser. Indeed the sweetness and flowingness of his verse are sometimes 
carried so far as to become cloying and enervated. The metre he 
employed being very complicated, and necessitating a frequent recur- 
rence in each stanza of similar rhymes — namely, four of one ending, 
three of another, and two of a third — he was obliged to take consid- 
erable liberties with the orthography and accentuation of the English 
language. In doing this, in giving to our metallic northern speech the 
flexibility of the liquid Italian, he shows himself as unscrupulous as 
masterly. By employing an immense mass of old Chaucerian words 
and provincialisms, nay, even by occasionally inventing words himself, 
he furnishes his verse with an inexhaustible variety of language ; but 
at the same time the reader must remember that much of the vocabu- 
lary of the great poet was a dialect that never really existed. Its pecu- 
liarities have been less permanent than those of almost any other of 
our great writers. 

§ 7. The power of Spenser's genius does not consist in any deep 
analysis of human passion or feeling, in any skill in the delineation of 
character; but in an unequalled richness of description, in the art of 
representing events and objects with an intensity that makes them visi- 
ble and tangible. He describes to the eye, and communicates to the 
airy conceptions of allegory, the splendor and the vivacity of visible 
objects. He has the exhaustless fertility of Rubens, with that great 
painter's sensuous and voluptuous profusion of color. Among the 
most important of his other poetical writings, I must mention his 
Mother Hubbard's Tale ; his Dafhnaida, an idyllic elegy bewailing 
the early death of the accomplished Sidney; and above all his Amo- 
retti, or love poeras, the most beautiful of which is his Eptthalamium, 
or Marriage-Song on his own nuptials with the " fair Elizabeth." 
This is certainly one of the richest and chastest marriage-hymns to be 
found in the whole range of literature, combining warmth with dignity, 
the intensest passion with a noble elevation and purity of sentiment. 
Here, too, as well as in innumerable passages of the Fa^ry ^ueen, do 
we see the influence of that lofty and abstract philosophical idea of the 
identity between Beauty and Virtue, which he borrowed from the Pla- 
tonic speculations. 

§ 8, The name of Sir Philip Sidney (1554-15S6) occurs so fre- 
quently in the literary history of this age, and that illustrious man 
exerted so powerful an influence on the intellectual spirit of the epoch, 
that ouF notice of the age would be incomplete without some allusion 

"a. D. 1554-15S6.] SIR PniLiP SIDNEY. 79 

to his life, even did not the intrinsic merit of his writings give him a 
place ampng the best poets and prose-writers of the time. He united 
in his own person ahnost all the qualities that give splendor to a char- 
acter, natural as well as adventitious — nobility of birth, beauty of per- 
son, bravery, generosity, learning, and courtesy. He was almost the 
beau idtal of the courtier, the soldier, and the scholar. The Jewel of 
the court, the darling of the people, and the liberal and judicious patron 
of arts and letters, his early and heroic death gave the crowning grace 
to a consummate character. He was born in 1554, and died at the age 
of thirty-two, of a wound received in the battle of Zutphen (October 
19, 1586), fought to aid the Protestants of the Netherlands in their 
heroic struggle against the Spaniards. His contributions to the litera- 
ture of his country consist of a small collection of Sonnets, remarkable 
for their somewhat languid and refined elegance; and the prose ro- 
mance, once regarded as a manual of courtesy and refined ingenuity, 
entitled The Arcadia. Judging only by its title, many critics have 
erroneouslj^ regarded this work as a purely pastoral composition, like 
the Galatea of Cervantes, the Arcadia of Sannazzaro, and the multi- 
tude of idyllic romances which were so fashionable at that time ; but 
the narrative of Sidney, though undoubtedly written on Spanish and 
Italian models, is not exclusively devoted to pastoral scenes and descrip- 
tions. A great portion of the work is chivalric, and the grace and ani- 
mation with which the knightly pen of Sidnej'" paints the shock of the 
tourney, and the noble warfare of the chase, is not surpassed by the 
luxurious elegance of his pastoral descriptions. In the style we see 
perpetual traces of that ingenious antithetical affectation which the 
imitation of Spanish models had rendered fashionable in England, and 
which became at last a kind of PMbiis or modish jargon at the court, 
until it was ultimately annihilated by the ridicule of Shakspeare, just 
as Moliere destroyed the style ;prtcieux which prevailed in his day in 
France. One charming peculiarity of Sidney is the pure and elevated 
view he takes of the female character, and which his example power- 
fully tended to disseminate throughout the literature of his day. This" 
alone would be sufficient to prove the truly chivalrous character of .his 
mind. The story of the Arcadia, though occasionally tiresome and 
involved, is related with considerable skill; and the reader will be 
enchanted, in almost every page, with some of those happy thoughts 
and graceful expressions Avhich he hesitates whether to attribute to the 
felicity of accident or to a peculiar delicacy of fancy. Sidney also 
wrote a small tract entitled A Defence of Poesy, in which he strives to 
show that the pleasures derivable from imaginative literature are pow- 
erful aids not only to the acquisition of knowledge, but to the cultiva- 
tion of virtue. He exhibits a peculiar sensibility to the power and 
genius so often concealed in rude national legends and ballads. 

§ 9. The epoch which I am endeavoring to describe was fertile in a 
class of poets, not perhaps attaining to the highest literary merit, but 
whose writings are marked by a kind of solid and scholar-like dignity 
which will render them permanently valuable. 


(i.) Such was Samuel Daniel (1562-1619), whose career seems txj 
have been tranquil and happj, and who enjoyed among his contem- 
poraries the respect merited not only by his talents, but hy a regularity 
of conduct then sufficiently rare among poets who, like Daniel, were 
connected with the stage. His works are tolerably voluminous, and all 
bear the stamp of that grave vigor of thought and dignified evenness 
of expression which, while it seldom soars into sublimity, or penetrates 
deep into the abysses of passion, is never devoid of sense and reflection. 
His most celebrated work is The History of the Civil Wars, a poem on 
the Civil Wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, in that 
peculiar style of poetical narrative and moral meditation the example 
of which had been set by Sackville's Mirrour for Magistrates, and 
which was at this time a favorite type among the literary men of 
England. Daniel's poem is in eight books, in stanzas of eight lines; 
and the talents of the writer struggle in vain against the prosaic nature 
of the subject, for Daniel closely adheres to the facts of history, which 
he can only occasionally enliven by a pathetic description or a sensible 
and vigorous reflection. His language is exceedingly pure, limpid, and 
intelligible. The poem entitled Musophilus is an elaborate defence of 
learning, cast into the form of a dialogue. The two interlocutors, 
Musophilus and Philocosmus, pronounce, in regular and well-turned 
stanzas, the usual arguments which the subject suggests. Many of 
Daniel's minor poems, as his Elegies, Epistles, Masques, and Songs, 
together with his contributions to the dramatic literature of the da^', 
justify the reputation which he possessed. Good sense, dignity, and 
an equable flow of pure language and harmonious versification, are the 
qualities which posterity will acknowledge in his writings. He is said 
to have succeeded Spenser to the post of poet laureate. "T: 

(ii.) A poet somewhat similar in general character to Daniel, but en-' 
dowed with a much greater originality, was Michael Drayton (1563- 
1631), a voluminous writer. His longest and most celebrated produc- 
tions were the topographical and descriptive poem entitled Polyolbioit, 
in thirty cantos or songs. The Barons' Wars, England's Heroical 
Epistles, The Battle of Agincourt, The Muses' Elysium, and the deli- 
jcious fancies of The Court of Fairy. The Polyolbion is a minute 
poetical itinerary of England and Wales, in which the affectionate 
patriotism of the writer has enumerated — county by county, village 
by village, hill by hill, and rivulet by rivulet — the whole surface of his 
native land; enlivening his work as he goes on by immense stores of 
picturesque legend and the richest profusion of allegory and personifi- 
cation. It is composed in the long-rhymed verse of twelve syllables, 
and is, both in design and execution, absolutely unique in literature. 
The notes attached to this work, in which Drayton wa« assisted b^f 
" that gulf of learning," the incomparable Selden, are a wonderful mass 
of curious erudition. Drayton has described his country with the pain- 
ful accurdcy of the topographer and the enthusiasm of a poet; and the 
Polyolbion will ever remain a most interesting monument of industry 
and taste. In The Barons' Wars Drayton has described the principal 

A. D. 1562-1625.] DANIEL. DRAYTON. DA VIES. 81 

events of the unhappy reign of Edward II. The poem is composed in 
the stanza of Ariosto, which Drayton, in his preface, selects as the most 
perfect and harmonious ; and the merits and defects of the work may 
be pretty accurately characterized by what has been said above concern- 
ing Daniel's poem on a not dissimilar subject. The Heroical Ef>istlc$ 
are imagined to be written by illustrious and unfortunate personages in 
English history to the objects of their love. They are therefore a kind 
of adaptation of the plan of Ovid to English annals. It was quite 
natural that a poet so fertile as Drayton, who wrote in almost every 
form, should not have neglected the Pastoral, a species of composition 
at that time in general favor. His efforts in this department are cer- 
tainly not inferior to those of any of his contemporaries, not even 
excepting Spenser himself; while in this class of his writings, as well 
as in his inimitable fairy poems, Drayton has never been surpassed. 
In the series entitled The Muses' Elysium, consisting of a series of nine 
idyls, or Nymf>hals, as he calls them, and above all in the exquisite 
little mock-heroic of Nynij)hidia, everything that is most graceful, 
delicate, quaint, and fantastic in that form of national superstition — 
almost peculiar to Great Britain — the fairy mythology, is accumulated 
and touched with a consummate felicity. The whole poem of Nym^ 
fhidia is a gem, and is almost equalled by the Epithalamium in the 
Vlllth Nymphal, on the marriage of "ourTita to a noble Fay." It is 
interesting to trace the use made of these graceful superstitions in the 
Midsummer Nighfs Dream and the Merry Wives of Windsor. 

(iii.) The vigorous versatility of the age, founded on solid and ex- 
tensive acquirements, is well exemplified in the poems of Sir John 
Davies (1570-1626), a learned lawyer and statesman, and Chief Justice 
of Ireland, who has left two works of unusual merit and originality, on 
subjects so widely different that their juxtaposition excites almost a 
feeling of ludicrous paradox. The subject of one of them, Nosct 
Teipsum, is the proof of the immortality of the soul; that of the other, 
entitled Orchestra, the art of dancing. The language of Davies is pure 
and masculine, his versification smooth and melodious ; and he seems 
to have communicated to his metaphysical arguments in the first poem, 
something of the easy grace and rhythmical harmony of the dance, 
while he has dignified and elevated the comparatively trivial subject of 
the second by a profusion of classical and learned allusions.* The Nosce 

* On the Nosce Teipsum, Mr. Hallam remarks, •* Perhaps no language can 
produce a poem, extending to so great a length, of more condensation of 
thought, or in which fewer languid verses will be found. Yet according to some 
definitions, the Nosce Teipsum is wholly unpoetical. inasmuch as it shows no 
passion and little fancy. If it reaches the heart at all, it is through the reason. 
But since strong argument, in terse and correct style, fails not to give us pleasure 
in prose, it seems strange that it should lose its effect when it gains the aid of 
regular metre to gratify the ear and assist the memory. Lines there are in 
Davies which far outweigh much of the descriptive and imaginative poetry of the 
last two centuries, whether Ave estimate them by the pleasure they impart to us, 
or by the intellectual vigor they display. Experience has shown that the facul- 


Teipsum, publ'^h-d in 1599, is written in four-lined stanzas of heroic 
lines, a measure which was afterwards honored by being taken as the 
vehicle of one of Drjden's early efforts ; but Drjden borrowed it more 
immediately from the Gondil?eri of Davenant. The Orchestra is com- 
posed in a peculiarly-constructed stanza of seven lines, extremely well 
adapted' to express the ever-varying rhythm of those dancing move- 
ments which the poet, by a thousand ingenious analogies, traces 
throughout all nature. 

(iv.) The unanimous admiration of contemporaries placed the genius 
of John Donne (1573-1631), Dean of St. Paul's, in one of the foremost 
places among the men of letters of his day. His life, too, full of vicissi- 
tudes, and his devotion of great and varied powers, first to scholastic 
study and retirement, then to the service of the state in active life, and 
last to the ministry of the Church, by familiarizing him with all the 
phases of human life, furnished his mind with rich materials for poetry 
of various kinds. When entering upon the career of the public service, 
as secretary to the Treasurer Lord Ellesmere, he made a secret mar- 
riage with the daughter of Sir George Moor, a lady whom he had long 
ardently loved, and the violent displeasure of whose family involved 
Donne in severe persecution. Though distinguished in his youth for 
wit and gayety, he afterwards, under deep religious conviction, embraced 
4;he clerical profession, and became as remarkable for intense piety as 
he had previously been for those accomplishments which had made 
him the Pico di Mirandola of his age. The writings of Donne are very 
voluminous, and consist of love verses, epigrams, elegies, and, abo-Q 
all, satires, which latter department of his works is that by which ne 
is now principally remembered. As an amatorj^ poet he has been justly 
classed by Johnson among the metaphysical poets — writers in whom 
the intellectual faculty obtains an enormous and disproportionate 
supremacy over sentiment and feeling. These authors are ever on 
the watch for unexpected and ingenious analogies ; an idea is racked 
into every conceivable distortion ; the most remote comparisons, the 
obscurest recesses of historical and scientific allusion, are ransacked to 
furnish comparisons and illustrations which no reader can suggest to 
himself, and which, when presented to him by the perverse ingenuity 
of the poet, fill him with a strange mixture of astonishment and shame, 
like the distortions of the posture-master or the tricks of sleight-of-hand. 
It is evident that in this cultivation of the odd, the unexpected, and 
the monstrous, the poet becomes perfectly indifferent to the natural 
graces and tender coloring of simple emotion; and in his incessant 
search after epigrammatic turns of thought, he cares very little whether 
reason, taste, and propriety be violated. This false taste in literature 
was at one time epidemic in Spain and Italy, from whence, in all proba- 

ties peculiarly deemed poetical are frequently exhibited in a considerable degree, 
but very few have been able to preserve a perspicuous brevity without stiffness 
or pedantry (allowance made for the subject and the times), in metaphysical 
reasoning, so successfully as Sir John Davies." — i^Lit. ii. 129.) 

A. D. 1573-1625.] DONNE. HALL 83 

bilitj, it infected English poets, who have frequently rivalled their 
models in ingenious absurdity. The versification of Donne is singu- 
larly harsh and tuneless, and the contrast between the ruggedness of 
his expression and the far-fetched ingenuity of his thought adds to the 
oddity of the effect upon the mind of the reader, by making him con- 
trast the unnatural perversion of immense intellectual activity with the 
rudeness and frequent coarseness both of the ideas and the expression. 
In Donne's Satires, of which he wi'ote seven, and in his Epistles to 
friends, we naturally find less of this portentous abuse of intellectual 
legerdemain, for the nature of such compositions implies that they are 
written in a more easy and colloquial strain ; and Donne has occasion- 
ally adapted, with great felicity, the outlines of Horace and Juvenal to 
the manners of his own time and country. Pope has translated some 
of Donne's Satires into the language of his own time, under the title of 
*'The Satires of Dr. John Donne, Dean of St. Paul's, versified." 

(v.) But the real founder of Satire in England, if we are to judge by 
the relative scope and completeness of his works in this department, 
was Joseph Hall (1574-1656), Bishop of Norwich, a man equally 
remarkable for the learning, dignitj", and piety with which he fulfilled 
his pastoral functions, and the heroic resignation with which he sup- 
ported poverty and persecution when deprived of them. He produced 
six books of Satires, under the title of Virgide^niarum (/. e. a harvest 
or collection of rods, a word modified from the similar term Vhidc- 
tm'arum, vintage), which form a complete collection, though they were 
not all published at the same time, the first three books, quaintly en- 
titled by their author toothless Satires, having appeared in 1597, while 
a student at Cambridge; and the latter three, designated biting- Satires, 
two years afterwards. Some of these excellent poems attack the vices 
and affectations of literature, and others are of a more general moral 
application. For the vivacity of their images, the good sense and good 
taste which pervade them, the abundance of their illustrations, and 
the ease and animation of the style, they are deserving of high admi- 
ration. Read merely as giving curious pictures of the manners and 
society of the day, they are very interesting in themselves, and throw 
frequent light on obscure passages of the contemporary drama. Hall, 
like Juvenal, often employs a peculiar artifice which singularlj^ heightens 
the piquancy of his attacks, viz. that of making his secondary allusions 
or illustrations themselves satirical. Some of these satires are ex- 
tremely short, occasionally consisting of only a few lines. His versi- 
fication is always easy, and often elegant ; and the language offers an 
admirable union of the unforced facility of ordinary conversation with 
the elevation and conciseness of a more elaborate style.* 

§ 10. Space will permit only a rapid allusion to several secondary 
poets who adorned this period, so rich in variety and vigor. The tAvo 
brothers, Piiineas Fletcher and Giles Fletcher, who lived, approx- 

* To Donne and Hall should be added the name of John Marston, the 
dramatic poet, as one of the chief satirists of the Elizabethan era. In 1599 he 
published three books of Satires, under the title of Tfie Sco^rg^ of Villabiy. 



[Chap. IV. 

imatelj, between the years 1584 and 1650, and who were connected by 
blood with their great contemporary the dramatist, produced, the 
former one of those long elaborate allegorical works which had been 
so fashionable at the beginning of the century, and in which science 
called in the aid of fiction, as in the case of Davies's poem on the Im- 
mortality of the Soul. This was The Purple Island, a minute descrip- 
tion of the human body, with all its anatomical details, which is 
followed by an equally searching delineation of the intellectual faculties. 
Giles Fletcher's work is Chrisfs Victory and Triumph, in which, as in 
his brother's production, we see evident traces of the rich and musical 
diction, as well as of the lofty and philosophical tone, of the great 
master of allegory, Spenser. With a mere notice of the noble religious 
enthusiasm that prevails in the writings of Churchyard, and of the 
unction and truly evangelical resignation of the unfortunate Jesuit 
Southwell, and a word of praise to the faithful and elegant transla- 
tion of Tasso by Fairfax, I must conclude the present chapter.* 

For a fuller account of these poets, see Notes and Illustrations (B), 




(See p. 72.) 
The history of this work, which is the most im- 
portant poem in English literature between Surrey 
and Spenser, and which was very popular in its 
day, deser\'e8 a few words. It was projected, as 
stated above (p. 72), by Thomas Sackville, Lord 
Bathurst, about the year 1557, and its plan was to 
^ve an account of all the illustrious but unfortunate 
characters in English history, from the conquest to 
the end of the fourteenth century. The poet de- 
scends, like Dante, into the infernal regions, con- 
ducted by Sorrow. Sackville, however, wrote only 
the Induction and the legend of the fall of the Duke 
of Buckingham, the vision of Richard IH., and 
then committed the completion of the work to 
RiOHAED Balpavyne and Geokoe Feereks. 
They were both men of learning; the former an 
ecclesiastic, and the author of a metrical version of 
Solomon's Song, which he dedicated to Edward VI. ; 
the latter a lawyer, who sat iu Parliament in the 
reign of Henry VIH., and who tilled theofHce of the 
Lord of Misrule in the palace of Greenwich at 
the Christmas revels appointed by Edward VI., in 
1553. Baldwyue and Ferrers called in the assist- 
ance of several other vn-iters, among whom were 
Churchyard and Phayer, the translator of Virgil, 
who took their materials chiefly from the newly 
published clironicles of Fabyan and Hall. The 
wars of York and Lancaster were their chief re- 
source. The work was first published in 1559 ; and 
after passing through three editions was reprinted 
in 1587, with the addition of many new lines, under 
tlie conduct of John HiGgins, a clergjman, and 
tlie author of some school books, who wrote a new 
induction iu the octave stanza and a new series of 

lives, from Albanact, the youngest son of Brutus, 
and the first king of Albanie, or Scotland, continued 
to the Emperor Caracalla. The legend of Cordelia, 
King Lear's youngest daughter, is the most striking 
part of Higgins's performance. The Alii-rour was 
recast, with new additions, in IGIO, by the poet 
Richard Niccols. It continued to enjoy great popu- 
larity till superseded by the growing reputation of a 
new poetical chronicle, entitled Albion's England, 
published before the beginning of the reign of 
James L 

Warton, who has devoted considerable space to 
the Mirrourfor Magistrates, remarks, " It is reason- 
able to suppose, that tlie publication of the JUirrour 
for Magistrates enriched the stores, and extended 
the limits, of our drama. These lives are so many 
tragical speeches In character. They suggested 
scenes to Shakspeare. Some critics imagine that 
Historical Plays owed their origin to this collec- 
tion. At least it is certain that the writers of thi« 
Mirrour were the first who made a poetical use of the 
English chronicles recently compiled by Fabyan, 
Hall, and Hollinshed, which opened a new field of 
subjects and events; and, I may add, produced a 
great revolution in the state of popular knowledge. 
For before those elaborate and voluminous compila- 
tions appeared, the history of England, which had 
been shut up in the Latin narratives of the monkish 
annalists, was unfamiliar and almost unknown to 
the general reader." 


"It was said bj' Ellis that nearly one hundred 
names of poets belonging to tlie reign of Elizabeth 
might be eniunerated, besides many that have left 



no memorial except their songs. This, however, 
was but a moderate computation. Drake {Shak- 
$peare and his Times, i. 674) has made a list of 
more than two hundred." (llallam, Lit. ii. 133.) 
The following is a list of the most important of 
these poets, in addition to those already described 
in the text : — 

TuoMAS CnuBCHTABD (1520-16M), a voluminous 
poet, was bom at Shrewsbury, and served as a 
soldier in the armies of Henry Vlll., Mary, and 
Elizabeth. He experienced many vicissitudes of 
fortune. Mr. D'Israeli describes him "as one 
of those unfortunate men who have written poetry 
all their days, and lived a long life to complete the 

Richard Edwabds (1523-1566), also known as a 
dramatic poet, was born in Somersetshire, educated 
at Oxford, and was appointed by Queen Elizabeth 
master of the singing boys of the royal chapel. He 
was the chief contributor and framcr of a poetical 
collection called The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 
which was not published till 1576, ten years after 
his death. It was probably undertaken in conse- 
quence of the great success of Tottel's Miscellany 
(see p. 70). The Paradise of Dainty Devices has 
been republished in the " British Biographer," by 
Sir Egerton Brydges, who remarks that the " poems 
do not, it must be admitted, belong to the higher 
classes ; they are of the moral and didactic kind. 
In their subject there is too little variety, as they 
deal very generally in the commonplaces of ethics, 
such as the fickleness and caprices of love, the 
falsehood and instability of friendship, and the 
vanity of all human pleasures. But many of these 
Rre often expressed with a vigor which would do 
credit to any era." The poems of Edwards are the 
best in this collection, and the one entitled Aman- 
tium Iras is reckoned by Brydges one of the most 
beautiful in the language. The poems which are 
next in merit in this collection are by Lord Vaux 
(see p. 70, A). The writer who holds the third place 
is William Hunnis (fl. 1550), one of the gentle- 
men of Queen Elizabeth's chapel, and the author 
of some moral and religious poems printed sepa- 

William Wabneb (1558-1609), a native of 
Oxfordshire, an attorney of the Common Pleas, and 
the author of Albion's England, first published in 
1586, and frequently reprinted. This poem, which 
is written in the fourteen-syllable line, is a his- 
tory of England from the Deluge to the reign of 
James I. It supplanted in popular favor the Mirrottr 
for Magistrates. The style of the work was much 
admired in its day, and Meres, in his " Wit's Treas- 
ury," says, that by Warner's pen the English tongue 
was " mightily enriched and gorgeously invested 
in rare ornaments and resplendent habiliments." 
The tales are chieHy of a merry cast, and many of 
them indecent. 

TuoMAS Watson (1560-1392), the aufhor of some 
sonnets, which have been much admired. 

Joshua Sylvester (1563-1618), a merchant, 
who translated The Divine Weeks and Works of the 
French poet Du Bartas, and obtained in his day 
the epithet of the Silver-tongued. The work weut 
through seven editions, the last being published in 
1641. It was one of Milton's early favorites. 

Aetuue Beooke (ob. 1503), the author of The 


Tragical History of Romeo and Juliet, published ia 
1562, a metrical paraphrase of the Italian novel of 
Bandello, on which Shakspeare founded his tragedy 
of Romeo and Juliet. Brooke's poem is one of con- 
siderable merit. 

Robert Southwell (1560-1595), bom in Nor- 
folk, of Catholic parents, educated at Douay, became 
a Jesuit, and returned to England in 1584 as a mis- 
sionary. He was arrested in 1592, and was executed 
at Tyburn in 1595, on account of his being a Romish 
priest, though not involved in any political plots. 
His poems breathe a spirit of religious resignation, 
and are marked by beauty of thought and expres- 
sion. Ben Jonson said that Southwell " had so 
written that piece of his. The Burning Babe, ho 
(Jonson) would have been content to destroy 
many of his." 

Thomas Stobek (1587-1604), of Christ Church, 
Oxford, the author of a poem on The Life and 
Death of Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal, published in 
1599, in which he followed closely Cavendish's Life 
of Wolsey. 

Nicholas Breton (1558-1624 ?), the author of a 
considerable number of poems, and a contributor 
to a collection called England's Helicon, published 
in 1600, which comprises many of the fugitive 
pieces of the preceding twenty years. Sidney, 
Raleigh, Lodge, Marlowe, Greene, are among the 
other contributors to this collection. 

Francis DA^^soN (1575-1618), the eon of the 
secretary Davison, deserves mention as the editor 
and a contributor to the Poetical Rhapsody, pub- 
lished in 1602, and often reprinted. Like " Eng- 
land's Helicon " it ia a collection of poems by 
various writers. 

George Chapman (1557-1634), also a dramatic 
poet, but most celebrated for his translation of 
Homer, which preserves much of the fire and spirit 
of the original. It is written in the fourteen-sjUa- 
ble verse so common in the Elizabethan era. " He 
would have made a great epic poet," says Charles 
Lamb, " if, indeed, he has not abundautly shown 
himself to be one; for his Homer is not so properly 
a translation as the stories of Achilles and Ulysses 
rewritten. The earnestness and passion which lie 
has put into every part of these poems would be 
incredible to a reader of more modem transla- 
tions." Chapman was born at Hitching Hill, iu 
Hertfordshire, His life was a prosperous one, and 
he lived on intimate terms with the great men of 
his day. 

EmvABi) Vebe, Earl of Oxfobd (1534-1604), 
the author of some verses in the Paradise of Dainty 
Devices. He sat as Great Chamberlain of England 
upon the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots. 

Henbt Constable (1568?-1604?), was cele- 
brated for his sonnets, published in 1592, under the 
name of Diana. It is conjectured that he was the 
same Henry Constable who, for his zeal in the 
Catholic religion, was long obliged to live in a state 
of banishment. 

Sir Fulk Greville, Lord Brooke (1554- 
1621), a friend of Sir Philip Sidney, was made 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a peer in 1621. 
He died by the stab of a revengeful servant, in 1628. 
His poems are a Treatise on Humane Learning, a 
Treatlte of Wars, a Treatise of Monarchy, a Trea- 
tise of Religion, and an Inqmsitiou upon Fame aiui 



[Chap. IV. 

Fortune. He also wrote two tragedies, entitled 
Alaham and Mustapha, neither of which was ever 
acted, being written after t'le model of the ancients, 
•with choruses, &c. Southey remarked that Dryden 
appeared to him to have formed his tragic style 
more upon Lord Brooke than upon any other 

Samuel Rowlands (d. 1634), whose history is 
quite unknown, except that he was a prolific pam- 
plilcteer in the reigus of Elizabeth, James I., and 
Charles I. Campbell remarks that "his descrip- 
tions of contemporary follies have considerable 
humor. I think he has afiorded in the story of 
Smug and Smith a hint to Butler for his apologue 
of vicarious justice, in the case of the brethren who 
h.iuged a ' poor weaver that was bed-rid,' instead 
of the cobbler who had killed an Indian. 

' Not out of malice, but mere zeal, 
Because he was an Infidel.' 

lludibras, Part. ii. Canto ii. 1. 420." 

Sir John Hakbington (1561-1612), bom at 
Kelston, near Bath, in Somersetshire, and celebrated 
as the first English translator of Ariosto's Orlando 
Furioso, published in 1501. Harrington also wrote 
a book of epigrams, and several other works. His 
father, John Harrington (1534-1582) was the author 
of some poems published in the " Nugse Antiquoa." 
He was imprisoned in the Tower under Queen 
Mary, for holding correspondence with Elizabeth. 

Edward Fairfax (fl. 1600), the translator of 
Tasso's Jerusalem, was a gentleman of fortune. 
The first edition was published in 1600, and was 
dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. This translation is 
nmch superior to that of Ariosto by Sir John Har- 
rington. " It has been considered as one of the 
earliest works in which the obsolete English which 
had not been laid aside in the days of Sackville, 
and which Spenser affected to presen'e, gave way 
to a style not much difl'ering, at least in point of 
single words and phrases, from that of the present 
day." But this praise, adds Mr. Hallam, is equally 
due to Daniel, to Drayton, and to others of the later 
Elizabethan poets. The first five books of Tasso 
had been previously translated by C'AKEW in 1594. 
This translation is more literal than that of Fairfax, 
but far inferior in poetical spirit. 

TiioMAS Lodge (1556-1625?), also a physician 
and a dramatic poet, was born in Lincolnshire, was 
educated at Trinity College, Oxford, and first ap- 
peared as an author about 1580. Ten of Lodge's 
poems are contained in the " English Helicon," 
published in 1600. To his poem entitled Rosalynde : 
Eupheus Golden Legacie (1590), Shakspeare was 
indebted for the plot and incidents of his drama. 
As You Like It. For his dramatic works, see p. 126. 

TllOMAS Carew (1580-1639), a poet at the court 
of Cliarlcs I., where he held the office of gentleman 
of the Privy-chamber, and ser\'er in ordinary to the 
king. His poems, which are mostly short and 
amatory, were greatly admired in their day. 
Campbell remarks that "the want of boldness and 
expansion in Carcw's thoughts and subjects excludes 
him from rivalship with great poetical names ; nor 
is it difficult, even within the narrow pale of his 
works, to discover some faults of aft'ectation, and 
of still more objectionable indelicacy. But among 
the poets who have walked in the same limited path 
he is pre-eminently beautiful, and deservedly ranks 

among the earliest of those who gave a cultivated 
grace to our lyrical strains." 

Sib Henby Wotton (156a-1639), a distinguished 
diplomatist in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. 
He was secretary to the Earl of Essex ; but upon 
the apprehension of his iiatron, he left the kingdom. 
He returned upon the accession of James, and was 
appointed ambassador to Venice. Later in life ho 
was appointed Provost of Eton, and took deacon's 
orders. His principal writings were published in 
1661, under the title of Reliquiie Wottoniante, with 
a memoir of his life by Izaak Walton. His liter- 
ary reputation rests chiefly upon his poems. His 
Elements of Architecture were long held in esteem. 
The iieliquiee also contain several other prose 

Richard Barnfield (b. 1574), educated at 
Brasenose College, Oxford, wrote several minor 
poems, distinguished by elegance of versification. 
His ode, " As it fell upon a day," which was re- 
printed in the " English Helicon " under the signa- 
ture of " Ignoto," in 1600, had been falsely attributed 
to Shakspeare in a volume entitled " The Passionate 
Pilgrim" (1559). 

Richard Corbett (1582-1635), Bishop of Ox- 
ford, and afterwards of Norwich, celebrated as a 
wit and a poet in the reign of James I. His poems 
were first collected and published in 1647. The best 
known are his Journey into France and his Fare- 
well to the Fairies. They are lively and witty. 

Sib John Beaumont (1582-1628), elder brother 
of Francis Beaumont the dramatist, wrote in the 
heroic couplet a poem entitled Bosworth Field, 
which was published by his son in 1629. 

Phineas Fletcher (1.584-1650), and his younger 
brother Giles Fletcher, mentioned in the text 
(p. 84), deseire a fuller notice; and we cannot do 
better than quote Mr. Hallam's discriminating 
criticism respecting them. " An ardent admiration 
for Spenser inspired the genius of two young broth- 
ers, Phineas and Giles Fletcher. The first, very 
soon after the queen's death, as some allusions to 
Lord Essex seem to denote, composed, though ho 
did not so soon publish, a poem, entitled The Purple 
Island. By this strange name he expressed a sub- 
ject more strange; it is a* minute and elaborate 
account of the body and mind of man. Through 
five cantos the reader is regaled with nothing but 
allegorical anatomy, in the details of which Phineas 
seems tolerably skilled, evincing a great deal of 
ingetmity in diversifying his metaphors, and in 
presenting the delineation of his imaginary island 
with as much justice as possible to the allegory 
without obtruding it on the reader's view. In tlie 
sixth canto he rises to the intellectual and moral 
faculties of the soul, which occupy the rest of the 
poem. From its nature it is insuperably weari- 
some, yet his language is ofteq»very poetical, his 
versification harmonious, his invention fertile. 
. . . Giles Fletclier, brother of Phineas, in 
Christ's Victory and Triumph, though his subject 
has not all the unity that might be desired, had a 
manifest superiority in its choice. Each uses a 
stanza of his own; Phineas one of seven lines, 
Giles one of eight. This poem was published in 
1610. Each brother alludes to the work of the 
other, which must be owing to the alterations mada 
by Phineas in his Purple Island, written probablj 

Chap. IV.] 



the first, but not pnblished, I believe, till 1633. 
Giles seems to have more vigor than his elder 
brother, but less sweetness, less smoothness, and 
more affectation in his style. This, indeed, is 
deformed by words neither English nor Latin, but 
simply barbarous, such as, elamping, eblazon, 
deprostrate, pu)-pured, glitterand, and many others. 
They both bear much resemblance to Spenser; 
Giles sometimes ventures to cope with him, even in 
celebrated passages, such as the description of the 
Cave of Despair. And he has had the honor, in 
turn, of being followed by Milton, especially in the 
first meeting of our Saviour with Satan in the Para- 
dise Regained. Both of these brothers are deserv- 
ing of much praise ; they were endowed with minds 
eminently poetical, and not inferior in imagination 
to any of their contemporaries. But an injudicious 
taste, and an excessive fondness for a style which 
the public was rapidly abandoning, that of allcgori- 
r--l personification, prevented tlieir powers from 
Deing effectively displayed." 

ScoTTisn Poets. 

SIB Alexajtdeb Scott (fl. 1562) wrote several 
amatory poems, which have procured him the title 
of the Scottish Anacreon. 

SiK RlciLVED >L4ITLAND (149G-1586), more cele- 
brated as a collector of the poems which bear his 
name than as an original poet, but his own com- 
positions are marked by good taste. 

Alexander Montgomery, the author of an 
allegorical poem called The Chei-ry and the Sloe, 
published in 1597, which long continued to be a 
favorite, and the metre of which was adopted by 

Ai.KXANDEB Hums (d. 1G09), a clergyman. 

published in 1599 a volume of Hi/mna or Sacred 

King James VI. published, in 1584, a volume of 
poetry, entitled Essayes of a I'renticc in the Divine 
Art of Poesie, with the Rewlis and Cantelia to be 
pursued and avoided. 

Earl of Ancbum (1578-1654), wrote some son- 
nets of considerable merit. 

George Bucilvnan (150&-1582), celebrated for 
his Latin version of the Psalms, is spoken of among 
the prose writers (p. 107). 

Dr. Abtuur Johnston (1587-l&il), also cele- 
brated for his Latin version of the Psalms, wa3 
bom near Aberdeen, studied medicine at Padua, 
and was appointed physician to Charles I. He died 
at Oxford. According to the testimony of Mr. 
Ilallam, "Johnston's Psalms, all of which are in 
the elegiac metre, do not fall short of those of Bu- 
chanan, either in elegance of style or correctness of 
Latinity." Johnston also wrote several other Latin 

Earl of Stirling (1580-1640), published in 
1637 a collation of his works entitled Recreations 
with the Muses, consisting of heroic poems and 
tragedies, of no great merit, but Campbell observes 
that " there is elegance of expression in a few of hia 
shorter pieces." One of his tragedies is on the 
subject of Julius Cassar. 

William Dbummond of Hawthornden (1585- 
1649), the most distinguished of the Scottish po- 
ets of this era, was the friend of Ben Jonson and 
Drayton. Jonson visited him in Hawthornden in 
1619. His best poems are his sonnets, which Mr. 
Hallam describes as "polished and elegant, flfca 
from conceit and bad taste, in pure, unblemished 




A. D. 1558-1625. 

§ 1. Introduction. ^ 2. Chroniclers: Stow, Hollinshed, Speed. $ 3. Sir 
Walter Raleigh. § 4. Collections of Voyages and Travels : Haklxjyt, 
PuKCHAS, Davis. § 5. The English Church : Hooker's Ecclesiastical Pol- 
ity. § 6. Life of Loud Bacon. § 7. Services of Bacon : the scholastic 
philosophy. § 8. History of previous attempts to throw off the yoke of the 
scholastic philosophy. § 9. Bacon's Instauratio Magna. § 10. First and 
Second Books : De Augmentis Scientiarum and the Novum Organon : the 
Inductive Method. § IL Third Book : Silva Silvarum : collection and classi- 
fication of facts and experiments: remaining books. § 12. Estimate of 
Bacon's services to science. § 13. His Essaya and other English writings. 
$ 14. Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. Lord Herbert of Cherbury. 
§ 15. Thomas Hobbes. 

§ 1. The principal object of the present chapter is to trace the nature 
aftd the results of that immense revolution in philosophy brought about 
bj the immortal writings of Bacon. It will, however, be unavoidable, 
in accordance with the chronological order generally adopted in our 
work, to sketch the character of other authors, of great though inferior 
importance, who flourished at the same time. Of the general intellec- 
tual character of the Age of Elizabeth, something has already been 
said: it maj- be observed that much of the peculiarly /r«c//crt/ charac- 
ter which distinguishes the political and philosophical literature of this 
time is traceable to the general laicising- of the higher functions of the 
public service, and is not one of the least valuable results of the Prot- 
estant Reformation. The clergy had no longer the monopoly of that 
learning and those acquirements which during the Catholic ages secured 
them the monopoly of power : and the vigorous personal character of the 
great queen combined with her jealousy of dictation to surround her 
throne with ministers chosen for the most part among the middle classes 
of her people, and to whom she accorded unshaken confidence, while 
she never allowed them to obtain any of that undue influence which 
the weaknesses of the woman experienced from unworthy favorites like 
Leicester and Essex. Such men as Burleigh, Walsingham, and Sir 
Thomas Smith belong to a peculiar type and class of statesmen ; and 
their administration, though less brilliant and dramatic than might be 
found at other periods of our history, was incontestably more wise and 
patriotic than can easily be paralleled. 

§ 2. In the humble but useful department of historical chronicles a 
few words must be said on the labors of John Stow (1525-1605) and 


A. D. 1552-1618.] SIR WALTER RALEIGH. 89 

Raphael Hollinshed (d. 1580),* the former of whom, a London citi- 
zen of very slight literary pretensions, devoted the whole of his long 
life to the task of collecting materials for numerous chronicles and 
descriptions of London. The latter undertook a somewhat similar 
work, though intended to commemorate the history of England gen- 
erally. From Hollinshed, it may be remarked, Shakspeare drew the 
materials for many of his half-legendary, half-historical pieces, such as 
Macbeth, King Lear, and the like ; and it is curious to observe the 
mode in which the genius of the great poet animates and transfigures 
the flat and prosaic language of the old chronicler, whose very words 
he often quotes textually. Striking examples of this will be found in 
Henry V. and Henry VI. 

§ 3. The most extraordinary and meteor-like personage in the liter- 
ary history of this time is Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), the 
brilliancy of whose courtly and military career can only be equalled by 
the wonderful variety of his talents and accomplishments, and by the 
tragic heroism of his death. He was born in 1552, and early attracted 
the favor of Elizabeth by an act of romantic gallantry, which has fur- 
nished the theme of a famous anecdote ; and both by his military 
exploits and his graceful adulation, he long maintained possession of 
her capricious favor. He highly distinguished himself in the wars in 
Ireland, where he visited Spenser at Kilcolman, and was consulted by 
the great poet on the Fa&ry ^ueen, and no less as a navigator and 
adventurer in the colonization of Virginia and the conquest of Guiana. 
He is said to have first introduced the potato and the use of tobacco 
into England. On the accession of James I. he seems to have been, 
though without the least grounds, involved in an accusation of high 
treason connected with the alleged plot to place the unfortunate Ara- 
bella Stuart upon the throne, and he was confined for manyj'ears in 
the Tower under sentence of death. Proposing a new expedition to 
South America, he was allowed to undertake it; but, it proving unsuc- 
cessful, the miserable king, in order to gratify the hatred of the Span- 
ish court, which Raleigh's exploits had powerfully excited, allowed him 
to be executed under the old sentence in 1618. During his imprison- 
ment of twelve years Raleigh devoted himself to literary and scientific 
occupations ; he produced, with the aid of many learned friends, 
among whom Jonson was one, a History of the World, which will 
ever be regarded as a masterpiece of English prose. The death of 
few illustrious men has been accompanied by so many traits of heroic 
simplicity as that of Raleigh. f 

* Stow's chief works are a Summary of English Chronicles, first published in 
1565, his Annals in 1573, and his Survey of London in 1598. To the names of 
Stow and Hollinshed should be add^d that of John Speed (1552-1629), who 
published in 1614 A History of Great Britain^ from the earliest times to the 
reign of James I. 

t Raleigh's History comes down only to the Second Macedonian "War. Re- 
specting its style, Hallam remarks that " there is little now obsolete in the 
words of Raleigh, nor, to any great degree, in his turn of phrase ; the periods, 


§ 4. The immense outburst of intellectual activity which renders the 
middle of the sixteenth century so memorable an epoch in the histor_y 
of philosophy, was not without a parallel in the rapid extension of 
geographical knowledge. England, which gave birth to Bacon, the 
successful conqueror of new worlds of philosophical speculation, was 
foremost among the countries whose bold navigators explored unknown 
regions of the globe. Innumerable expeditions, sometimes fitted out 
by the state, but far more generally the undertakings of private specu- 
lation, exhibited incredible skill, bravery, and perseverance in opening 
new passages for commerce, and in particular in the endeavor to solve 
the great commercial and geographical problem of finding a north- 
west passage to the eastern hemisphere. The commercial rivalry 
between England and Spain, and afterwards between England and 
Holland, generated a glorious band of navigators, whose exploits, par- 
taking of the double character of privateering and of trade, laid the 
foundation of that naval skill which rendered England the mistress of 
the seas. Drake, Frobisher, Davies, Raleigh, were the worthy ances- 
tors of the Nelsons, Cooks, and Franklins. The recital of their dan- 
gers and their discoveries was frequently recorded by these hardy 
navigators in their own simple and picturesque language ; and the 
same age that laid the foundation of the naval greatness of our coun- 
try, produced also a branch of our literature which is neither the least 
valuable nor the least characteristic — the narration of maritime dis- 
covery. Hakluyt (1533-1616), PuRCHAS (d. 1628), and Davis (d. 1605) 
have given to posterity large collections of invaluable materials con- 
cerning the naval adventure of those times : the first two authors 
were merely chroniclers and compilers ; the third was himself a famous 
navigator, the explorer of the Northern Ocean, and gave his name to 
the famous strait which serves as a monument of his glory. The lan- 
guage in all these works is simple, grave, and unadorned; the narra- 
tive, in itself so full of the intensest dramatic excitement, has the charm 
of a brave old seaman's description of the toils and dangers he has 
passed ; and the tremendous dangers so simply encountered with such 
insignificant means are painted with a peculiar mixture of professional 
sang-froid and child-like trust in Providence. The occasional acts of 
cruelty and oppression, which are to be mainly attributed to a less 
advanced state of civilization, are more than redeemed by the indom- 
itable courage and invincible perseverance of these illustrious nav- 

§ 5. Among the various Christian sects generated by the great 
break-up of the Catholic Church at the Reformation, the Anglican 
confession appears to occupy nearly a central position, equidistant 
from the blind devotion to authority advocated by the Romish com- 
munion, and the extreme abnegation of authoritj^ proclaimed by the 

where pains have heen taken with them, show that artificial structure which we 
find in Sidney and Hooker ; he is less pedantic than most of his contempora- 
ries, seldom low, never affected." 

A. b. 1553-1598.] HOOKER. 91 

Calvinistic theologians. The Church of England is essentially a com- 
promise between opposite extremes ; and it is perhaps to this modera- 
tion that it owes its solidity and its influence : it is unquestionably this 
moderation which recommended it to so reasonable and practical a 
people as the English. On its first appearance on the stage of history 
it was exposed to the most violent hostility' and persecution at the hands 
of the ancient faith which it had supplanted; but no sooner had it 
become firmly established as the dominant and official religion of the 
state, than it was exposed to attacks from the very opposite point of 
the theological compass — attacks under whose violence it temporarily 
succumbed. The Catholic persecutions of Mary's reign were followed 
by the gradually increasing hostility of Puritanism, which had been 
insensibly acquiring more and more power from the middle of the 
reign of Elizabeth. The great champion of the principles of Anglican- 
ism against the encroachments of the Genevan school of theology \vas 
Richard Hooker (1553-1598), a man of evangelical piety and of 
vast learning, sprung from the humblest origin, and educated in the 
University of Oxford. He was for a long time buried in the obscurity 
of a country parsonage ; but his eloquence and erudition obtained for 
him the eminent post of Master of the Temple in London, where his 
colleague in the ministry, Walter Travers, propounded doctrines in 
church government which, being similar to those of the Calvinistic 
confession, were incompatible with Hooker's opinions. The mildness 
and modesty of Hooker's character, rendering controversy and dispu- 
tation insupportable to him, urged him to implore his ecclesiastical 
superior to remove him from his place, and restore him to the more 
congenial duties of a country parish : and it was here that he executed 
that great work which has placed him among the most eminent of the 
Anglican divines, and among the best prose writers of his age. The 
title of this work is A Treatise on the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 
and its object is to investigate and define the fundamental principles 
upon which is founded the right of the Church to the obedience of its 
members, and the duty of the members to pay obedience to the Church. 
But, though the principal object of this book is to establish the relative 
rights and duties of the Anglican Church in particular, and to defend 
its organization against the attacks of the Roman Catholics on the one 
hand and the Calvinists on the other, Hooker has. dug deep down into 
the eternal granite on which are founded all law, all obedience, and all 
right, political as well as religious. The Ecclesiastical Polity is a mon- 
ument of close and cogent logic, supported by immense and varied 
erudition, and is written in a style so free from pedantry, so clear, vig- 
orous, and unaffected, as to form a remarkable contrast with the gen- 
erality of theological compositions, then generally overloaded with 
quotation and deformed by conceits and antithesis. It is to be regret- 
ted that this excellent work was never finished by the author, or, at 
least, if finished, has not descended to us as Hooker intended it to do, 
for the Sixth Book is supposed, though certainly the composition of 
the same author, to be a fragment of a quite different work. 


§ 6. The political life of Franqis Bacon (1561-1626) forms, with his 
purely intellectual or philosophical career, a contrast so striking that it 
would be difficult to find, in the records of biographical literature, any- 
thing so vividly opposed. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, long 
a favorite and trusted minister of Queen Elizabeth, in whose service he 
held the high oflice of Keeper of the Great Seal. Sir Nicholas was a 
fair specimen of that peculiar class of able statesmen with whom that 
great sovereign surrounded her administration, a type which we find 
repeated in Burleigh, Walsingham, Ellesmere, and Smith — men of 
great practical knowledge of the world, of powerful though not per- 
haps inventive faculties, and of great prudence and moderation in their 
religious opinions, a point of much importance at a period when the 
recent Reformation in the Church had exposed the country to the 
agitations arising from theological disputes. Francis Bacon was the 
nephew of Burleigh, Sir Nicholas and the great Chancellor having 
married two sisters ; and the boy gave earnest, from his tenderest 
childhood, of those powers of intellect and that readiness of mind 
which afterwards distinguished him among men. He was born in 1561 ; 
and received a careful education, completed at an age even for that 
time exceedingly early, in the University of Cambridge. He is said, 
even as a boy, to have shown plain indications of that inquiring spirit 
which carried him to the investigation of natural laws, and a gravity 
and presence of mind which attracted the attention of the Qiieen ; and 
while studying at Cambridge it is reported that he was struck with the 
defects of the philosophical methods, founded upon the scholastic or 
Aristotelian system, then universally adopted in the investigations of 
science. Then, perhaps, first dawned upon his mind the dim outline 
of that great reformation in philosophy which he was afterwards des- 
tined to bring about. His father, who certainly intended to devote him 
to the public service, probably in the department of diplomacj', sent 
him to travel on the Continent; and a residence of about four years in 
France, Germany, and Italy, not only gave him the opportunity of 
acquiring a remarkable stock of political knowledge respecting the 
state and views of the principal European courts, but rendered him the 
still more valuable service of enlarging his knowledge of mankind, and 
making him acquainted with the state of philosophy and letters. He 
was recalled from the Continent by the death of his father in 1580, and 
found himself under the necessity of entering upon some active career. 
He appears to have felt that the natural bent of his genuis inclined to 
the study of science; and he begged his kinsman and natural protector, 
Burleigh, to obtain for him the means of devoting himself to those 
pursuits. The Chancellor, however, who was jealous of his nephew's 
extraordinary abilities, which he feared might eclipse or at least inter- 
fere with the talents of his own son Robert, just then entering upon 
that brilliant career which he so long followed, treated Francis with 
great harshness and indifference, and insisted on his embracing the 
profession of the law. He became a student of Gray's Inn ; and that 
wonderful aptitude, to which no labor was too arduous and no subtlety 


A. D. 1561-1626.] LORD BACON-. 93 

too reftned, very soon made him the most distinguished r% Jvotatc of his 
daj, and an admired teacher of the legal science. The jealousy of his 
kinsmen the Cecils, both father and son, appears to have veiled itself, 
in some degree perhaps unconsciously, under the pretext that Bacon 
was a flighty and bookish young man, too fond of projects and theories 
to be likely to become a useful servant of the State. But the counte- 
nance which was refused to Bacon by his uncle and cousin, he obtained 
from the generous and enthusiastic friendship of Essex, who used all 
his influence to obtain for his friend the place of Solicitor-General, and 
when unsuccessful in this attempt, consoled him for the disappointment 
by the gift of a considerable estate. During this period of his life 
Bacon continued to rise rapidly, both in professional reputation as a 
lawyer, and in fame both for philosophy and eloquence. He sat in the 
House of Commons, and gave evidence not only of his unequalled 
powers as a speaker, but also of that cowardly and interested subservi- 
ence to the Court which was the great blot upon his glory, and the 
cause of his ultimate disgrace. There is nothing in the whole range 
of history more melancholy than to trace this sublime intellect truc- 
kling to every favorite who had power to help or to hurt, and betraying 
in succession all those to whom self-interest for the moment had 
attached him. After submitting, with a subserviency unworthy of a man 
of the le^t spirit, to the haughty reproaches of the Cecils, he aban- 
doned t^ir faction for that of Essex, whom he flattered and betrayed. 
On the unhappy Earl's trial for high treason, in consequence of his 
frantic conspiracy and revolt. Bacon, though he certainly felt for his 
benefactor as warm an attachment as was compatible with a mean and 
servile nature, not only abandoned his former friend, but volunteered 
with malignant eagerness among the foremost ranks of his enemies, 
and employed all his immense powers, as an advocate and a pam- 
phleteer, to precipitate his ruin and to blacken his memory. Bacon 
was not in fact a malignant man : he was a needy, flexible, unscrupu- 
lous courtier; and showed in his after career the same ignoble readiness 
to betray the duties of the judge as he now did in forgetting the obli- 
gations of the friend. 

On the death of Elizabeth, and the transfer of the crown to James I. 
in 1603, Bacon, who had been gradually and steadily rising in the ser- 
vice of the State, attached himself first to Carr, the ignoble favorite of 
that prince, and afterwards to Carr's successor, the haughty Bucking- 
ham. He had been knighted at the coronation, and at the same time 
married Alice Barnham, a young lady of considerable fortune, the 
daughter of a London alderman. He sat in more than one parliament, 
and was successively made Solicitor-General, Attorney-General, and at 
last, in 1617, chiefly by the interest of Buckingham, Lord High Chan- 
cellor of England, and Baron Verulam, which latter title was three 
years afterwards replaced by the still higher style of Viscount St. 
Alban's. Though the whole of his public career was stained with acts 
of the basest servility and corruption, it is not uninstrudive to mention 
that Bacon was one of the last, if not the very last, ministers of the law 


in England to employ and to defend the application of torture in judicial 
procedure. Bacon occupied the highest office of justice during four 
jears, and exhibited, in the discharge of his great functions, the wisdom 
and eloquence which characterized his mind, and the servility and 
meanness which disgraced his conduct; and on the assembling of Par- 
liament in 1621, the House of Commons, then filled with just indignation 
against the insupportable abuses, corruptions, and monopolies coimte- 
nanced by the Government, ordered a deliberate investigation into vari- 
ous acts of bribery of which the Chancellor was accused. The King 
and the favorite, though ready to do all in their power to screen a 
criminal who had alwaj^s been their devoted servant, were not bold 
enough to face the indignation of the whole country; and the investi- 
gation was allowed to proceed. It was carried on before the House of 
Lords, and it resulted in his conviction, on the clearest evidence, of 
many acts of gross corruption as a judge.* Independently of the cases 
thus proved, it cannot be doubted that there must have existed numer- 
ous others which were not inquired into. Bacon himself fully confessed 
his own guilt; and in language which under other circumstances would 
have been profoundly pathetic, threw himself on the indulgence of his 
iudges. The sentence, though it could not be otherwise than severe, 
was evidently just : it condemned him to be deprived of his place as 
Chancellor, to pay a fine of 40,000/. (a sum, be it remarked, not 
amounting to half the gains he was supposed to have corruptly made), 
to be imprisoned during the King's pleasure in the Tower, to be ever 
after incapable of holding any office in the State, and to be incapacitated 
fi-om sitting in Parliament or coming within twelve miles of the Court. 
In imposing so severe a punishment it must be recollected that Bacon's 
judges well knew that much of it would be mitigated, or altogether 
remitted ; and the result showed how just were these anticipations. The 
culprit was almost immediately released from confinement; the fine 
was not only remitted by royal favor, but by the manner of its remission 
converted into a sort of protection of the fallen Chancellor against the 
claims of his importunate creditors ; and he was speedily restored to 
the privilege of presenting himself at Court. There can be no doubt 
that James and his favorite had felt great reluctance in abandoning 
Bacon to the indignation of Parliament, and that they only did so in 
the conviction that any attempt to save their servant would not only 
have been inevitably unsuccessful, but must have involved the Govern- 
ment itself in odium, without in the least alleviating the lot of the 
guilty Chancellor. 

The life of the fallen minister was prolonged for five years after his 
severe but merited disgrace ; and these years were passed in intriguing, 
flattering, and imploring pecuniary relief in his distresses. During his 
whole life he had lived splendidly and extravagantly. His taste for 

* Many of the charges against Bacon, related in the text, have been proved 
by Mr. Hepworth Dixon, in his " Personal History of Lord Bacon," to be un- 

A. D. 1561-1626.] LORD BACON, 95 

magnificence in houses, gardens, and trains of domestics had been such 
as may generally be found in men of lively imagination ; and it was to 
escape from the perpetual embarrassments which are the natural con- 
sequences of such tastes that he in all probability owed that gradual 
deadening of the moral sensCj and that blunting of the sentiment of 
honor and self-respect, which were the original source of his crimes. 
Common experience shows with what fatal rapidity rises the flood of 
corruption in the human heart when once the first barriers are removed. 
Bacon's death took place, after a few days' illness, on the 9th April, 
1626, and was caused by a cold and fever caught in travelling near 
London, and in part is attributed to an experiment which he tried, of 
preserving meat by freezing. He got out of his carriage, bought a 
fowl, and filled the inside of the bird with snow, which then lay thick 
upon the ground. In doing this he received a chill, which was aggra- 
vated by being put into a damp bed at Lord Arundel's house near 
Highgate. Bacon was buried, by his own desire, by his mother's side 
in St. Michael's Church, St. Alban's, near which place was the magnif- 
icent seat of Gorhambury, constructed by himself. He had no children, 
and left his afi'airs involved in debt and confusion. 

§ 7. In order to appreciate the services which Bacon rendered to the 
cause of truth and knowledge, and which have placed his name foremost 
among the benefactors of the human race, two precautions are indis- 
pensable. First we must form a distinct idea of the nature of the phil- 
osophical methods which his system of investigation supplanted for- 
ever in physical research ; and, secondly, v/e must dismiss from our 
minds that common and most erroneous imagination that Bacon was 
an inventor or a discoverer in any specific branch of knowledge. His 
mission was not to teach mankind a philosophy, but to teach them 
how to philosophize. A contrary supposition would be as gross an 
error as that of the clown who imagined that Newton was the discoverer 
of gravitation. The task which Bacon proposed to himself was loftier 
and more useful than that of the mere inventor in any branch of 
science ; and the excellence of his method can be nowhere more clearly 
seen than in the instances in which he has himself applied it to facts 
which in his day were imperfectly known or erroneously explained. 
The most brilliant name among the ancient philosophers is incontesta- 
bly that of Aristotle : the immensity of his acquirements, which ex- 
tended to almost every branch of physical, political, moral, and Intel* 
lectual research, and the powers of a mind unrivalled at once for grasp 
of view, and subtlety of discrimination, have justly secured to him the 
very highest place among the greatest intellects of the earth : he was 
indeed, in the fullest sense, 

" '1 maestro di color che sanno." 

But the instrumental or mechanical part of his system, the mode by 
which he taught his followers that they could arrive at true deductions 
in scientific investigation, when falling into inferior hands, was singu- 
larly liable to be abused. That careful examination of nature, and 


that wise and cautious prudence in the application to particular phe- 
nomena, of general formulas of reasoning, which are so perceptible in 
the works of the master, were very soon neglected by the disciples, 
who, finding themselves in possession of a mode of research which 
seemed to them to promise an infallible correctness in the results ob- 
tained, were led, by their very admiration for the genius of Aristotle, 
to leave out of sight his prudent reserve in the employment of his 
method. The synthetic mode of reasoning flatters the pride of human 
intellect by causing the truths discovered to appear the conquest made 
by its unassisted powers ; and the great part played in the investigation 
by those powers renders the method peculiarly susceptible of that kind 
of corruption which arises from over-subtlety and the vain employment 
of words. Nor must we leave out of account the deteriorating influence 
of the various nations and epochs through which the ancient deductive 
philosophy had been handed down from the time of Aristotle himself 
till the days of Bacon, when its uselessness for the attainment of truth 
had become so apparent that a great reform was inevitable — had been 
indeed inevitable from a much more remote period. The acute, dispu- 
tatious spirit of the Greek character had already from the very first 
commenced that tendency towards vain word-catching which was still 
further accelerated in the schools of the Lower Empire. It was from 
the schools of the Lower Empire that the Orientals received the philo- 
sophical system already corrupted, and the mystical and over-subtle 
genius of the Jewish and Arabian speculators added new elements of 
decay. It was in this state that the doctrines were received among the 
monastic speculators of the Middle Ages, and to the additional errors 
arising from the abstract and excessive refinements of the cloister were 
added those proceeding from the unfortunate alliance between the phil- 
osophical system of the Schools and the authority of the Church. The 
solidarity established between the orthodoxy of the Vatican and the 
methods of philosophy was indirectly as fatal to the authority of the 
one as ruinous to the value of the other. In this unhallowed union 
between physical science and dogmatic theology, the Church, by its ar- 
rogation to itself of the character of infallibility, put it out of its own 
power ever to recognize as false any opinion that it had once recognized 
as true; and theology being in its essence a stationary science, while 
philosophy is as inevitably a progressive one, the discordance between 
the two ill-matched members of the union speedily struck the one with 
impotence and destroyed the influence of the other. Independently, 
too, of the sources of corruption which I have been endeavoring to 
point out, the Aristotelian method of investigation, even in its pure and 
normal state, had been always obnoxious to the charge of infertility, 
and of being essentially stationary and unprogressive. The ultimate 
aim and object of its speculations were, by the attainment of abstract 
truth, to exercise, purify, and elevate the human faculties, and to carry 
the mind higher and higher towards a contemplation of the Supreme 
Good and the Supreme Beauty : the investigation of nature was merely 
a means to this end. Practical utilitj wa« regarded as a result which 

A. D. 1561-1626.] LORD bacon: 97 

might or might not be attained in this process of raising the mind to a 
certain ideal height of wisdom; but an end which, whether attained or 
not, was below the dignity of the true sage. Now, the aim proposed bj 
the modern philosophy is totally different; and it follows that the 
methods by which that end is pursued should be as different. Since 
the time of Bacon all the powers of human reason, and all the energies 
of invention and research, have been concentrated on the object of im- 
proving the happiness of human life — of diminishing the sufferings 
and increasing the enjoyments of our imperfect existence here below — 
of extending the empire of man over the realms of nature — in shoit, of 
making our earthly state, both physical and moral, more happy. This 
is an aim less ambitious than that ideal virtue and that impossible wis- 
dom which were the aspiration of the older philosophy; but it has the 
advantage of being attainable, while the experience of twenty centuries 
had sufficiently proved that the lofty pretensions of the former system 
had been followed by no corresponding results ; nay, that the incessant 
disputations of the most acute and powerful intellects, during so many 
generations, not only had left the greatest and most vital questions 
where they had found them at first, but had degraded philosophy to the 
level of an ignoble legerdemain. 

§ 8. Many attempts had been made, by vigorous and independent 
minds, long before the appearance of Bacon, to throw off the yoke of 
the scholastic philosophy; but that yoke was so riveted with the 
shackles of Catholic orthodoxy, that the efforts, being made in coun- 
tries and at epochs when the Church was all-powerful, could not possi- 
bly be successful : all they could do was to shake the foundations of an 
intellectual tyranny which had so long weighed upon mankind, and to 
prepare the way for its final overthrow. The Reformation, breaking 
up the hard-bound soil, opened and softened it so that the seeds of true 
science and philosophy, instead of falling upon a rock, brovight forth fruit 
a hundred fold. Long and splendid is the list of the great and liberal 
minds who had revolted against the tyranny of the schools before the 
appearance of the New^hilosophy. In the writings of that wonderful 
monk, the anticipator of his great namesake — in the controversy 
between the Nominalists and Realists — in the disputes which preceded 
the Reformation — the standard of revolt against the tyranny of the 
ancient system had been raised by a succession of brave and vigorous 
hands ; and though many of these champions had fallen in their con- 
test against an enemy intrenched in the fortifications of religious 
orthodoxy, and though the stake and the dungeon had apparently 
silenced them forever, nevertheless the tradition of their exploits had 
formed a still-increasing treasury of arguments against orthodox 
tyranny. England, in the reign of Elizabeth and James I., was pre- 
cisely the country, and a country precisely in the particular state, in 
which the great revolution in philosophy was possible; and it was a 
most providential combination of circumstances and qualities that was 
concentrated in Francis Bacon so as to make him, and perhaps him 
alone, the apostle of the new philosophical faith. 


§ 9. The great object which Bacon proposed to himself, in proclaim- 
ing the advantages of the Inductive Method, was fruit : the improve- 
ment of the condition of mankind ; and his object being different from 
that of the elder philosophers, the mode by Avhich it was to be attained 
was different likewise. From an early age he had been struck with the 
defects, with the stationary and unproductive character, of the Deduc- 
tive Method ; and during the whole of his brilliant, agitated, and, alas ! 
too often ignominious career, he had constantly and patiently labored, 
adding stone after stone to that splendid edifice which will enshrine his 
name when his crimes and weaknesses, his ambition and servility, shall 
be forgotten. His philosophical sj^stem is contained in the great work, 
or rather series of works, to which he intended to give the general title 
of Instauratio Mag7ia, or Great Institution of True Philosophy. The 
whole of this neither was nor ever could have been executed by one 
man or by the labors of one age ; for every new addition to the stock 
of human knowledge, would, as Bacon plainly saw, modify the conclu- 
sions, though it would not affect otherwise than by confirming the 
soundness, of the philosophical method he propounded. The histatc- 
ratio was to consist of six separate parts or books, of which the follow- 
ing is a short synoptical arrangement : — 

I. Partitiones Scientiarum : a summary or classification of all 
knowledge, with indications of those branches which had been 
more or less imperfectly treated. 
II. Novu7n Orgamcm : the New Instrument, an exposition of the 
methods to be adopted in the investigation of truth, with indi- 
cations of the principal sources of human error, and the reme- 
dies against that error in future. 

III. Pha:nome7ia Universi, sive Historia Naturalis et Experimentalis 

ad condendam Philosophiam : a complete body of well-ob- 
served facts and experiments in all branches of human knowl- 
edge, to furnish the raw material upon which the new method 
was to be applied, in order to obtain results of truth. 

IV. Scala hitellectus, sive Filum Labyrinthi : rules for the gradual 

ascent of the mind from particular instances or phenomena, 
to principles continually more and more abstract; and warn- 
ings against the danger of advancing otherwise than grad- 
ually and cautiously. 
V. P/'i?(^/'(?;;2/, sive Anticipationes Philosophiam Secundoe; anticipa- 
tions or forestallings of the New Philosophy, t. e. such truths 
as could be, so to say, provisionally established, to be after- 
wards tested by the application of the New Method. 
VI. PJiilosophia Secunda, sive Scientia activa; the result of the just, 
careful, and complete application of the methods previously 
laid down to the vast body of facts to be accumulated and 
observed in accordance with the rules and precautions con- 
tained in the Ild and IVth parts. 

Let us compare the position of Bacon, with respect to science in gen- 

A. D. 1561-1626.] 

LORD bacon: 


eral, to that of an architect invited to undertake the reconstruction of 
a palace, ancient and splendid, but which, in consequence of the lapse 
of time and the changes of the mode of living, is found to be in a ruin- 
ous or uninhabitable condition. What would be the natural mode of 
proceeding adopted bj an enlightened artist under these circumstances? 
He would, I think, make it his first care to draw an exact plan of the 
edifice in its present state, so as to form a clear notion of the extent, 
the defects, and the conveniences of the building as it stands; and not 
till then would he proceed to the demolition of the existing edifice. He 
would next prepare such instruments, tools, and mechanical aids, as 
would be likelj to render the work of construction more rapid, certain, 
and economical. Thirdly, he would accumulate the necessary mate- 
rials. Fourthly, he would provide the ladders. Lastly, he would begin 
to build : but should the edifice be so vast that no human life would be 
long enough to terminate it, he would construct so much of it as would 
suflice to give his successors an idea of the general plan, style, and dis- 
position of the parts, and leave it to be completed by future genera- 
tions. It will easily, I think, be seen, how accurately the mode of pro- 
ceeding in Bacon's great work corresponds with common sense and 
with the method followed by our imaginary architect. Bacon is the 
builder; the great temple of knowledge is the edifice, which the labors 
of our race have to terminate according to his plan. 

§ 10. Let us now inquire what portion of this project Bacon was able 
to execute. The first portion, consisting of a general view of the state 
of science at his time, with an explanation of the causes of its sterility 
and unprogressiveness, was published in 1605, in an English treatise, 
bearing the title of Tke Proficience atid Advancement of Learning: 
this was afterwards much altered and extended, and republished in 
Latin, in 1623, under the title De Augtnentis Scientiarum. The Novum 
Organum, the most important portion of Bacon's work, is that in which 
the necessity and the principles of the Inductive Method are laid down 
and demonstrated. It is, in 
short, the compendium of the 
Baconian logic. «, It was pub- 
lished in Latin, in 1620. The 
fundamental difference be- 
tween the method recommend- 
ed by Bacon and that which 
had so long been adopted by 
philosophers, m^y, I think, be 
rendered clear by a compari- 
son of the accompanying little 
diagrams : — 

In the first of these the point A may be conceived to represent some 
general principle upon which depend any number of detached facts or 
phenomena b, c, d, e, f. Now let it be supposed that we are seeking 
for the explanation of one or all of these phenomena ; or, in other 


words, desirous of discovering the law upon which thej depend. It is 
obvious that we may proceed as the arithmetician proceeds in the solu- 
tion of a problem involving the search rfter an unknown quantity or 
number; that is, we mziy suppose the law of nature to be so and so, 
and applying this law to one or all of the phenomena within our obser- 
vation, see if it corresponds with them or not. If it does, we conclude, 
so far as our examination has extended, that we have hit upon the true 
result of which we are in search : if not, we must repeat the process, 
as the arithmetician would do in a like case, till we obtain an answer 
that corresponds with all the conditions of the problem : and it is evi- 
dent, that the greater the number of separate facts to which we suc- 
cessfully apply our theoretical explanation, the greater will be the 
probability of our having hit upon the true one. Now this application 
of a pre^stablished theory to the particular facts or phenomena is pre- 
cisely the signification of the word synthesis. It is obvious that the 
march of the mind in this mode of investigation is from the general to 
the particular — that is, in the direction of the arrow, or downvjards — 
whence this mode of investigation is styled deduction, or a descent from 
the general law to the individual example. Similarly, the Aristotelian 
method has received the designation a priori, because in it the estab- 
lishment of a theory, or, at all events, the provisional employment 
of a theory, is prior to its application in practice, just as in meas- 
uring an unknown space we previously establish a rule, as of a foot, 
yard, &c., which we afterwards apply to the space to be so deter- 
mined. In the diagram all the elements are the same as in the pre- 
ceding one, with the exception that here the process follows a precisely 
opposite direction — that is, from a careful comparison of the different 
facts, the mind travels gradually upwards, with slow and cautious 
advances, from bare phenomena to more general consideration, till at 
last it reaches some point in which all the phenomena agree, and this 
point is the law of nature or general principle, of which we were in 
search. As synthesis signifies composition, so analysis signifies resolu- 
tion ; and it is by a continual and cautious process of resolution that 
\hQ. vavciA ascends — in the direction marked by the arrow — from the 
particular to the general. This ascending process is clearly designated 
by the term induction, which signifies an ascetit from particular instances 
to a general law; and the term a posteriori denotes that the theory, 
being evolved from the examination of the individual facts, is neces- 
sarily posterior or subsequent to the examination of those facts. 

All human inventions have their good and their bad sides, their 
advantages and their defects : and it is only by a comparison between 
the relative advantages and defects that we can establish the superiority 
of one system or mode of action over another. On contemplating the 
two methods of which I have just been giving a very rough and popvilar 
explanation, it will be at once obvious that the Deductive mode enables 
us, luhen the right theory has been hit upon, to arrive at absolute, or 
almost mathematical truth; while analysis, being dependent for its 
accuracy upon the number of phenomena which furnish the materials 

A. D. 1561-1626.] LORD BACON. 101 

for our induction, can never arrive at absolute certainty; inasmuch as 
it IS impossible to examine all the phenomena of a single class, and as 
while any phenomena remain unexamined we never can be certain that 
the discovery of some new fact will not completely overset our conclu- 
sions. The utmost that we can arrive at, therefore, by this route, is a 
very high degree of probability — a degree which will be higher in 
proportion as it is founded upon a greater number of instances, and 
attained by a more careful process of sifting. But the nature of the 
human mind is such that it is practically incapable of distinguishing 
between a very high probability and an absolute certainty ; at least the 
latter is able to produce upon the reason the same amount of conviction 
— in some cases, perhaps, even a greater amount — than even an abso- 
lute certainty. If we consider, therefore, the enormous number of 
chances against any given a priori deduction being the right one, — for, 
as in an arithmetical px'oblem, there can be only one correct solution, 
while the number of possible incorrect solutions is injEinite, — and 
observe that till all the possible phenomena have been submitted to 
the synthetic test we never can be sure that we have the right theory, 
we shall easily agree that the possible certainty of a theory is dearly 
bought when compared with the far greater safety of the analytical 
method of reasoning, which, keeping fast hold of nature at each step 
of its progress, has the possibility, nay, even the certainty, of correcting 
its errors as they may arise. 

The most important portion of the whole Instauratio is the Novum 
Organum, in which Bacon lays down the rules for the employment of 
Induction in the investigation of truth, and points out the origin and 
remedies of the errors which most commonly oppose us in our search. 
The earlier philosophers, and particularly Aristotle, assigning a 
great and almost unlimited efficacy in this research to the intellectual 
faculties alone, contented themselves with perfecting those logical 
formulas, among which the syllogism was the principal, by whose aid, 
as by the operation of some infallible instrument, they conceived that 
that result would assuredly be attained ; and gave rules for the legitimate 
employment of their syllogism, pointing out the means of detecting 
and guarding against fallacies or irregularities in the expression oithQiv 
reasoning. Bacon went far deeper than this, and showed that the most 
dangerous and universal sources of human error have their origin, not 
in the illegitimate employment of terms, but in the weaknesses, the 
prejudices, and the passions of mankind, exhibited either in the race or 
the individual. He classifies these sources of error, which in his vivid 
picturesque language he calls Idols or false appearances, in four cate- 
gories ; the Idols of the Tribe, of the Den, of the Market-place, of the 
Theatre. Under the first he warns us against those errors and prejudices 
which are common to the whole human race, the tribe to which we all 
belong; the idols of the Den are tlftse which arise from the particular 
circumstances of the individual, as his country, his age, his religion, 
his profession, or his personal character; the errors of the Market-place 
are the result of the universal habit of using terms the meaning of 


which we have either not distinctly agreed on, or which we do not 
clearly understand. These terms are used in the interchange of 
thought, as money is passed from hand to hand in the market; and we 
accept and transfer to others coins whose real value we have not taken 
the trouble to test. The idols of the Theatre are the errors arising 
from false systems of philosophy, which dress up conceptions in unreal 
disguises, like comedians upon the stage. . We may compare the precau- 
tions of the older logic to that of a physician who should direct his 
efforts to the getting rid of the external efflorescence of a disorder, and 
should think his duty performed when he had purified the skin, though 
perhaps at the cost of driving in the disease and rendering it doubly 
dangerous. Bacon, like the more enlightened practitioner, sought out 
the deep-seated constitutional source of the malady ; it is to that that 
he addresses his treatment, certain that when the internal cause is 
removed, the symptoms will vanish of themselves. 

§ 11. Of the Third Book Bacon has given only a specimen, intended 
to show the method to be adopted in collecting and classifying facts 
and experiments; for in a careful examination of facts and experiments 
consists the whole essence of his induction, and in it are concealed the 
future destinies of human knowledge and power. Bacon contributed 
to this portion of the work a History of the Winds, of Life and Death, 
written in Latin ; and a collection of experiments in Physics, or, as he 
calls it, Naturarl History in English. This portion of the work is alone 
sufficient to show how small are Bacon's claims or pretensions to the 
character of a discoverer in any branch of natural science, and how 
completely he was under the influence of the errors of his day ; but at 
the same time it proves the innate merit of his method, and the power 
of that mind which could legislate for the whole realm of knowledge, 
and for sciences yet unborn. To the English fragment he gives the title 
of Silva Silvarum, i. e. a collection of materials. 

The Fourth Book, Scala Intellecttis, of which Bacon has given but 
a brief extract, was intended to show the gradual march to be followed 
hy induction, in ascending from the fact perceptible to the senses to 
principles which were to become more and more general as we advance ; 
and the author's object was to warn against the danger of leaping ab- 
ruptly over the intermediate steps of the investigation. Qf the Fifth 
Bqo'k he wrote only a preface, and the Sixth was never commenced. 

§ 12. Of the soundness and the fertility of Bacon's method of inves- 
tigation, the best proof will be a simple and practical one : we have 
only to compare the progress made by humanity in all the useful arts 
during the two centuries and a half since induction has been generally 
emploj-ed in all branches of science, with the progress made during the 
twenty centuries which elapsed between Aristotle and the age of Bacon. 
It is no exaggeration to say that in the shorter interval that progress 
has been ten times greater than in tne longer. That this progress is in 
any degree attributable to any superiority of the human intellect in 
modern times is a supposition too extravagant to deserve a moment's 
attention. Never did humanity produce intellects more vast, more 

A. D. 1561-1626.] LORD BACON. 103 

penetrating, and more active, I will not saj than Aristotle himself, but 
than the series of great men who wasted their powers in abstract ques- 
tions which never could be solved, or in the sterile subtleties of 
scholastic disputation. We may remark, too, as a strong confirmation 
of the truth of what we are saying, that in those sciences which are 
independent of experiment, and proceed by the eflbrts of reasoning and 
contemplation alone, — as theology, for instance, or pure geometry, — 
the ancients were fully as far advanced as w^e are at this moment. 
The glory of Bacon is founded upon a union of speculative power with 
practical utility which were never so combined before. He neglected 
nothing as too small, despised nothing as too low, by which our happi- 
ness could be augmented ; in him, above all, were combined boldness 
and prudence, the intensest enthusiasm, and the plainest common sense. 
He could foresee triumphs over nature far surpassing the wildest dreams 
of imagination, and at the same time warn posterity against the most 
trifling ill consequences that would proceed from a neglect of his rules. 
It is probable that Bacon generally wrote the first sketch of his works 
in English, but afterwards caused them to be translated into Latin, 
which was at that time the language of science, and even of diplomacy. 
He is reported to have employed the services of many young men of 
learning as secretaries and translators : amomg these the most remark- 
able is Hobbes, afterwards so celebrated as the author of the Lev I'aiAan. 
The style in which the Latin books of the Lnstauratio were given to the 
world, though certainly not a model of classical purity, is w^eighty, 
vigorous, and picturesque. 

§ 13. Bacon's English w^ritings are very numerous : among them 
unquestionably the most important is the little volume entitled Essays, 
the first edition of which he published in 1597, and which was several 
times reprinted, with additions, the last in 1625. These are short 
papers on an immense variety of subjects, from grave questions of 
morals and policy down to the arts of amusement and the most trifling 
accomplishments ; and in them appears, in a manner more appreciable 
to ordinary intellects than in his elaborate philosophical works, the 
wonderful union of depth and variety which characterizes Bacon. The 
intellectual activity they display is literally portentous ; the immense 
multiplicity and aptness of unexpected illustration is only equalled by 
the originality with which Bacon manages to treat the most worn-out 
and commonplace subject, such, for instance, as friendship or garden- 
ing. No author was ever so concise as Bacon; and in his mode of 
writing there is that remarkable quality which gives to the style of 
Shakspeare such a strongly-marked individuality; that is, a combina- 
tion of the intellectual and imaginative, the closest reasoning in the 
boldest metaphor, the condensed brilliancy of an illustration identified 
with the development of thought. It is this that renders both the 
dramatist and the philosopher at once the richest and the most concise 
of writers. Many of Bacon's essays, as that inimitable one on Studies, 
are absolutely oppressive from the power of thought compressed into 
the smallest possible compass. Bacon wrote also an Essay on the Wis- 


dom of the Ancients, in which he endeavored to explain the political 
and moral truths concealed in the mythology of the classical ages ; 
and in this work he exhibits an ingenuity which Macaulay justly de- 
scribes as almost morbid ; an unfinished romance, The New Atlantis^ 
which was intended to embody the fulfilment of his own dreams of a 
philosophical millennium ; a History of Henry VII. , and a vast num- 
ber of state-papers, judicial decisions, and other professional writings. 
All these are marked by the same vigorous, weighty, and somewhat 
ornamented style which is to be found in the Ifistauratio, and are 
among the finest specimens of the English language at its period of 
highest majesty and perfection. 

§ 14. In every nation there may be found a small number of writers 
who, in their life, in the objects of their studies, and in the form and 
manner of their productions, bear a peculiar stamp of eccentricity. No 
country has been more prolific in such exceptional individualities than 
England, and no age than the sixteenth century. There cannot be 
a more striking example of this small but curious class than old Rob- 
ert Burton (1576-1640), whose life and writings are equally odd. 
His personal history was that of a retired and laborious scholar, and 
his principal work, the Anatomy of Melancholy, is a strange combina- 
tion of the most extensive and out-of-the-way reading with just obser- 
vation and a peculiar kind of grave saturnine humor. The object of 
the writer was to give a complete monography of Melancholy, and to 
point out its causes, its symptoms, its treatment, and its cure : but the 
descriptions given of the various phases of the disease are written in 
so curious and pedantic a style, accompanied with such an infinity of 
quaint observation, and illustrated by such a mass of quotations from a 
crowd of authors, principally the medical writers of the fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries, of whom not one reader in a thousand in the pres- 
ent day has ever heard, that the Anatomy possesses a charm which no 
one can resist who has once fallen under its fascination. The enormous 
amount of curious quotation Avith which Burton has incrusted every 
paragraph and almost every line of his work has rendered him the 
favorite study of those who wish to appear learned at a small expense ; 
and his pages have served as a quarry from which a multitude of authors 
have borrowed, and often without acknowledgment, much of their 
materials, as the great Roman feudal families plundered the Coliseum 
to construct their frowning fortress-palaces. The greater part of Bur- 
ton's laborious life was passed in the Universitj^ of Oxford, where he 
died, not without suspicion of having hastened his own end, in order 
that it might exactly correspond with the astrological predictions which 
he is said, being a firm believer in that science, to have drawn from his 
own horoscope. He is related to have been himself a victim to that 
melancholy which he has so minutely described, and his tomb bears 
the astrological scheme of his own nativity, and an inscription emi- 
nently characteristic of the man : " Hie jacet Democritus, junior, cui 
vitam dedit et mortem Melancholia." 

Our notice of the prose writers of this remarkable period would be 

A. D. 15SS-1679.] HERBERT. HOBBES. 105 

incomplete without some mention of Lord Herbert of Cherbury 
(1581-1648), who was remarkable as a theologian and also as an his- 
torian. He was a man of great learning and rare dignity of personal 
character, and was employed in an embassy to Paris in 1616. There 
he first published his principal work, the treatise De Vcritate, an elab- 
orate pleading in favor of deism, of which Herbert was one of the ear- 
liest partisans in England. He also left a History of Henry VIII., not 
published until after his death, and which is certainly a valuable mon- 
ument of grave and vigorous prose, though the historical merit of the 
work is diminished by the author's strong partiality in favor of the 
character of the king. Though maintaining the doctrines of a free- 
thinker, Herbert gives indications of an intensely enthusiastic religious 
mysticism, and there is proof of his having imagined himself on more 
than one occasion the object of miraculous communications by which 
the Deitj^ confirmed the doctrines maintained in his books. 

§ 15. But in force of demonstration, and clearness and precision of 
language, none of the English metaphysicians have surpassed Thomas 
HoBBES (1588-1679), who, however, more properly belongs to a later 
period. Hobbes was a man of extraordinary mental activity, equally 
remarkable, during the whole of a long literary career, for the power 
as for the variety of his philosophical speculations. The theories of 
Hobbes exerted an incalculable influence on the opinions, not only of 
English, but also of Continental thinkers, for nearly a century, and 
though that influence has since been much weakened by the errors and 
sophistries mingled in many of this great writer's works, in some 
important and arduous branches of abstract speculation, as for exam- 
ple in the great question respecting Free Will and Necessity, it is 
doubtful whether anj" later investigations have thrown any new light 
upon the principles established by him. He was born at Malmesbury 
in Wiltshire in 1588, was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and sub- 
sequently travelled abroad as private tutor to the Earl of Devonshire. 
On his return he became intimate with the most distinguished men of 
his day, through the influence of his patron the Earl of Devonshire. 
His first literary work, the translation of Thucydides, was published in 
the third year of the reign of Charles I., in 1628. He subsequently 
passed several years in Paris and Italy, and he was in constant com- 
munication with the most illustrious minds among his contempo- 
raries, as with Descartes for example, with Galileo, and with Harvey. 
Though of extreme boldness in speculation, Hobbes was an advocate 
for high monarchical or rather despotic principles in government: his 
theory being that human nature was essentially ferocious and corrupt, 
he concluded that the iron restraint of arbitrary power could alone 
suffice to bridle its passions. This theory necessarily flowed from the 
fundamental proposition of Hobbes's moral system; viz. that the 
firimmn mobile of all human actions is selfish interest. Attributing 
all our actions to intellectual calculation, and thus either entirely 
ignoring or not allowing sufficient influence to the moral elements 
and the affections, which play at least an equal part in the drania of 


life, Hobbes fell into a narrow and one-sided view of our motives which 
makes his theory only half true. He was a man whose reading, though 
not extensive, was singularly profound : and in the various branches 
of science and literature which he cultivated we see that clearness of 
view and vigor of comprehension which is found in men of few books. 
The most celebrated work of this great thinker was the Leviathaii (pub- 
lished in 1651), an argument in favor of monarchical government: the 
reasonings, however, will apply with equal force to the justification of 
despotism. But though the Leviathan is the best known of his works, 
the Treatise on Human Nature^ and the Letter on Liberty and Neces- 
sity^ are incontestably those in which the closeness of his logic and the 
purity and clearness of his style are most visible, and the correctness 
of his deductions least mingled with error, ^wo purely political trea- 
tises, the Elevienta Philosophica de Cive, and De Corpore Politico^* 
are remarkable for the cogency of the arguments, though many of the 
results at which the author struggles to arrive are npw no longer con- 
sidered deducible from the premises. In the latter portion of his life, 
Hobbes entered with great ardor upon the study of pure mathematics, 
and engaged in very vehement controversies with Wallis and others 
respecting the quadrature of the circle and other questions in which 
novices in those sciences are apt to be led away by the enthusiasm of 
imaginary discoveries. Hobbes has often been erroneously confounded 
with the enemies of religion. This has arisen from a inisconception 
of the nature of his doctrines, which, in apparently lowering the moral 
faculties of man, have seemed to exhibit a tendency to materialism, 
though in reality nothing can be more opposed to the character of 
Hobbes's philosophical views ; for the selfish theory of human actions, 
when divested of those limitations which confine the motive of self to 
those low and short-sighted views of interest with which it is generally 
associated, no more necessitates a materialistic line of argument than 
any other system for clearing up the mysteries of our moral nature.f 

* These two treatises were published before the Leviathan, and were incor- 
porated in the latter work. 

t It may also be mentioned that Hobbes wrote, in 1672, at the age of 84, 
n curious Latin poem on his own life ; and he also published in- 1675, at the a^e 
of 87, a translation in verse of the Iliad and Odyssey. His Behemoth, or a His- 
tony of the Civil Wars from 1640 to 1660, appeared in 1679, a few months after 
Ivis death. 

Chap. V.] 





"Webster Pt:tte>"HAM, publislied in 1586 the 
Art of English Poesie ; a writer whom Mr. Hallam 
considers the first who wrote a well measured 

RICIIAKD Gkafton, a printer in tlie reigns of 
Henry VIII. and the three following sovereigns, is 
one of the early chroniclers. He wrote in prison, 
into which he was thrown for printing the procla- 
niation of the succession of Lady Jane Grey to tiie 
throne, An Ahridg.nent of the Chronicles of Eng- 
land, published in J562. 

William Cecil, Loep Bitkleigii (d. 1508), 
the celebrated statesman in the reign of Queen 
E!i?aheth, wrote Precepts, or. Directions for the 
welt Ordering ami Carriage of a Jilan's Life, ad- 
dressed to his son liohert Cecil. 

John Lyly, the author of the prose romance of 
Euphues, and GiiEENE and NASri, the authors of 
several pamphlets in prose, are mentioned under the 
dramatists (pp. 124, 125). 

Geoi;ge Buciiajsan (150G-1582), celebrated as an 
elegant Latin writer, was bom at Killearn, in the 
county of Stirling, and was aducated at the Univer- 
sities of St. Andrews and Paris. He was appointed 
by the Earl of Murray tutor to the young King 
James VI. His chief work is a History of Scot- 
land, which was published in 1582, under the title 
of Renim Scoticarum Ilistoria. His Latin version 
of the Psalms has been already mentioned (p. 87). 
He wrote in the Scottish dialect a work called 
Chanixleon, to satirize Secretary Maitland of Leth- 

George Sandys (1577-1643), known as a travel- 
ler and as a poet, was the youngest son of the 
Archbishop of York. His Travels in the East w^erc 
very popular, and were repeatedly republished in 
tlie seventeenth century. His chief poetical pro- 
duction was a translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. 

William Litiigow (d. 1640), a native of Scot- 
land, also celebrated as a traveller. He travelled 
nineteen years on foot in Europe, Asia, and ^yrica. 
The first edition of his Travels was published in 

Sir John Hayward (d. 1627), an historian, pub- 
lished in 1599 The First Part of the Life and Reign 
of Henry 1 V., dedicated to the Earl of Essex ; a 
work which gave such oflence to the queen that the 
author was thrown into prison. Hayward was 
subsequently patronized and knighted by James I. 
In 1613 he published The Lives of the three Norman 
Kings of England, William I., iVilliam II., and 
Henry L, dedicated to Charles, Prince of Wales. 
He likewise wrote The Life and Reign of King 
Edward VL, with the Beginning of the Reign of 
Queen Elizabeth, which was published in IGljO, after 
bis death. 

ilKjiiAKD Knolles (d. 1610), master of the free- 

school at Sandwich in Kent, p\ibli.shcd in 1610 a 
History of the Turks. Johnson, in a paper in the 
Rambler, gives KnoUes the superiority over all 
English historians. " He has displayed all the ex- 
cellencies that narrative can aJniit. His sty'ic, 
thougli somewhat obscured by time and vitiated 
by falsa wit, is pure, nervous, elevated, and clear. 
Nothing could have sunk this author into obscurity 
but the remoteness and barbarity of the people lie 
relates." Mr. Ilallam thinks that Johnson has not 
too highly extolled Knolles's style and power of 

Samuel Daniel, the poet of whom we have al- 
ready spoken (p. 80), published in 1618 a History of 
England, from the Conquest to the Reign of Ed- 
ward in. JNIr. Hallam remarks that "this work is 
deserving of some attention on account of its lan- 
guage. It is written with a freedom from all stiif- 
ncss, and a purit3' of style, wliich hardly any i>ther 
work of so early a date exhibits. These qualities are 
indeed so remarkable that it would require a good 
deal of critical observation to distinguish it even 
from writings of the reign of Anne ; and where it 
differs from them (I speak only of the secondary 
class of works, which have not much individuality 
of manner), it is by a more select idiom, and by an 
absence of the Gallicism or vulgarity which is 
often found in that age. It is true that the merits 
of Daniel are chiefly negative; he is never pedantic, 
or antithetical, or low, as his contemporaries were 
apt to be ; but his periods are ill constructed ; he has 
little vigor or elegance; and it is only by observing 
how much pains he must have taken to reject 
phi'ases which were growing obsolete that we give 
him credit for having done more than follow the 
common stream of easy writing. A slight tinge 
of archaism, and a certain majesty of expression, 
relatively to colloquial usage, were thought by 
Bacon and Raleigh congenial to an elevated style; 
but Daniel, a gentleman of the king's household, 
■wrote as the court spoke, and his facility would be 
pleasing if his sentences had a less negligent struc- 
ture. As an historian he has recourse only to com- 
mon authorities; but his narration is fluent aiid 
perspicuous, with a regular vein of good sense, more 
the characteristic of his mind, both in verse and 
prose, than very commanding vigor." 

WiLiJAM Camden (1551-1623), the antiquary 
and historian, was head master of WestminsttT 
School, and endowed at Oxford the chair of Iiistory, 
which bears his name. His most celebrated work 
is in Latin, entitled Britannia, first publislied in 
1586, giving a topographical description of Great 
Britain from the earliest times. He also wrote in 
Latin an account of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. 

Sir Henry Spelman (1562-1641), also an emi- 
nent antiquary, published in Latin various works 
upon legal and ecclesiastical antiquities, of whicli 
one of the principal is a History of the English 




§ 1. Origin of the Drama. Earliest religious spectacles, called Mysteries or 
Miracles. § 2. Plays, called Moralities : Bishop Bale. § 3. Interludes : John 
Heywood. § 4. Pageants. Latin Plays. § 5. Chronicle Plays. Bale's 
King John. First English tragedies. The tragedy of Gorboduc. Other early 
tragedies. § 6. First English comedies. lialph Royster Doyster. Gammer 
Gurton's Needle. § 7. Actors. Theatres. Scenery and properties of the stage. 
§8. Dramatic authors usually actors. §9. Early English playwrights. Lyly. 
Peele. Kyd. Nash. Gkeene. Lodge. § 10. Christopher Maelowe. 
^ IL Anonymous plays. 

1. As the Drama is one of the most splendid and perhaps the most 
intensely national department of our literature, so its orig n and devel- 
opment were peculiar, and totally different from anything to be 
found in the history of other European countries. It is only Spain and 
England among all the modern civilized nations, that possess a theatri- 
cal literature independent in its origin, characteristic in its form, and 
reflecting faithfully the features, moral, social, and intellectual, of the 
people among which it arose : and the nationality of Spain being 
strongly distinguished from that of England, it is natural that the 
Spanish drarria should possess a character which, though, like that of 
Britain, strongly romantic, should be very dissimilar in its type. It is 
possible to trace the first dim dawning of our national stage to a very 
remote period, to a period indeed not very far removed from the era 
of the Norman Conquest : for the custom of representing, in a rude 
dramatic form, legends of the lives of the Saints and striking episodes 
of Bible History seems to have been introduced from France, and to 
have been employed by the clergy as a means of communicating reli- 
gious instruction to the rude population of the twelfth century. There 
exists the record of one of these religious spectacles, which received the 
name of Mysteries or Miracles, from the sacred nature of their subject 
and personages, having been represented in the Convent of Dunstable 
in IT 19. It was called the Play of St. CatheritiCy and in all probability 
consisted of a rude dramatized picture of the miracles and martyrdom 
of that saint, performed on the festival which commemorated her death. 
In an age when the great mass of the laity, from the highest to the low- 
est, were in a state of extreme ignorance, and when the little learnmg 
that then existed was exclusively in the hands of ecclesiastics, it was 
quite natural that the latter, which was then the governing class, should 
employ so obvious an expedient for communicating some elementary 
religious instruction to the people, and by gratifying the curiosity of 
their rude hearers, extend and strengthen the influence of the Churcht 
It is known that this play of St. Catherine was performed in French, 



which is a sufficient proof that the custom of these representations was 
imported from abroad ; but the great and rapid extension of these per- 
formances soon showed how well this mode of religious amusement 
accorded with the tastes and requirements of the times. Mysteries and 
Miracle-plajs abound in the early literature of all the Catholic countries 
of Europe; Spain, Germany, France, Italy possess examples so abun- 
dant that a considerable library might be formed of these barbarous 
pieces ; and the habit of seeing them represented in public has certainly 
left very perceptible traces in medijEval literature and art. For example, 
the title, the subject, and the arrangement of Dante's immortal poem are 
closely connected with dramatic representations of Hell, Purgatory, and 
Paradise, which formed a common feature among the festivities of 
Florence. The Divine Comedy, the very name of which shows its re- 
lation to some theatrical performance, is nothing but a Miracle in a 
narrative form. These plays were composed and acted by monks, the 
cathedral was transformed for the nonce into a theatre, the stage was 
a species of graduated platform in three divisions rising one over the 
other, and placed near or over the altar, and the costumes were fur- 
nished by the splendid contents of the vestry of the church. It will 
appear natural enough, that on any of the high religious festivals, on 
the anniversary of any important religious personage or event, that 
personage or event should be represented in a visible form, with such 
details as either Scripture, legend, or the imagination of the author 
could supply. The childish and straightforward art of these old 
monkish dramatists felt no repugnance in following with strict literal 
accuracy every circumstance of the original narrative which they 
dramatized ; and the simple faith of their audience saw no impropriety 
in the introduction of the most supernatural beings, the persons of the 
Trinity, angels, devils, saints, and martyrs. The three platforms into 
which the stage was divided represented Heaven, Earth, and Hell ; and 
the dramatis fersonce made their appearance on that part of the stage 
which corresponded with their nature. It was absolutely necessary that 
some comic element should be introduced to enliven the graver scenes, 
particularly as some of these representations were of inordinate length, 
there being one, for example, on the subject of the Creation and the 
Fall of Man, which occupied six days in the performance. Besides, the 
rude audience would have absolutely required some farcical or amusing 
episode. This comic element was easily found by representing the 
wicked personages, whether human or spiritual, of the drama as placed 
in ludicrous situations, or surrounded by ludicrous accompaniments: 
thus the Devil generally played the part of the clown or jester, and was 
exhibited in a light half terrific and half farcical. Nor were they con- 
tented with such drDlleries as could be extracted from the grotesque 
gambols and often baffled machinations of Satan and his imps, or with 
tlie mixture of merriment and horror inspired by horns, and tails, and 
hairy howling mouths : the authors of these pieces introduced human 
buftbons ; and the modern puppet-play of Punch, with his struggles 
with the Devil, is unquestionably a direct tradition handed down from 


these ancient miracles in which the Evil One was alternately the con- 
queror and the victim of the Buffoon, Jester, or Vice, as he was called. 

Some idea may be formed of these ancient religious dramas from the 
titles of some of them which have been preserved ; for the general reader 
is scarce likely to consult such of them as have been printed, though 
curious monuments of the faith and 'art of long-vanished ages. The 
Creation of the World, the Fall of Matt, the story of Cain arid Abel, 
the Crucifixio7i of Our Lord, the Massacre of the Innocents, the Deluge, 
besides an infinite multitude of subjects taken from the lives and miracles 
of the saints ; such were the materials of these simple dramas. They 
are generally written in mixed prose and verse, and though abounding 
in anachronisms and absurdities both of character and dialogue, they 
sometimes contain passages of simple and natural pathos, and some- 
times scenes which must have affected the spectators with intense awe 
and reverence. In an English mystery on the subject of the Deluge, a 
comic scene is produced by the refusal of Noah's wife to enter the Ark, 
and by the beating which justly terminates her resistance and scolding. 
But, on the other hand, a mystery on the subject of the Sacrifice of 
Isaac contains a dialogue of much pathos and beauty between Abraham 
and his son ; and the whole action of the Mystery of the Holy Sacra- 
ment was capable of producing a strong impression in an age of child- 
like, ardent faith. These representations were got uj) with all the mag- 
nificence attainable, and every expedient was employed to heighten the 
illusion of the scene. Thus there is a tradition of a condemned crimi- 
nal having been really crucified on the stage, in a representation of the 
Passion of Our Lord, in the character of the Impenitent Thief. Very 
evident traces of the vmiversality of these religious dramas may be 
found in the early works of sculpture and painting throughout Catholic 
Europe. Thus the practice of representing the Deitj' in the crtstume 
and ornaments of a Pope or a Bishop, which appears to us an absurdity 
or an irreverence, arose from such a personage being generally repre- 
sented, on the rude stage of the miracle-play, in a dress which was then 
associated with ideas of the highest reverence : and the innumerable 
anecdotes and apologues representing evil spirits as bafiled and defeated 
by a very moderate amount of cunning and dexterity may easil}'^ have 
been generated by that peculiarity of Mediaeval Christianity which pic- 
tures the wicked spirits, not as terrible and awful beings, but as mischiev- 
ous goblins whose power was annihilated at the foundation of our faith. 

§ 2. To trace the gradual changes which establish the affiliation 
from the early Mysteries of the twelfth century to the regular drama of 
modern times, is nothing else but to point out the steps by which the 
dramatic art, from an exclusively religious character acquired more and 
more of a lay or worldly spirit in its subjects and its personages. The 
Mysteries, once the only form of dramatic representation, continued to 
be popular from the eleventh to the end of the fourteenth century; nay, 
in some pastoral and rem.ote corners of Europe, where the primitive 
faith glows in all its ancient ardor, and where the manners of the 
people have been little modified by contact with foreign civilization, 

A. D. 1495.] MORALITIES. Ill 

something very similar to the Mysteries may be still seen even in the 
present day. In the retired valleys of Catholic Switzerland, in the 
Tyrol, and in some little-visited districts of Germanj^, the peasants still 
annually perform dramatic spectacles representing episodes in the life 
of Christ. The first stage in the process oi latcizt?2g the drama was the 
substitution for the Miracle-play of another kind of representation, 
entitled a Morality. This species of entertainment seems to have been 
popular from about the beginning of the fifteenth century, and gradually 
supplanted the exclusively religious Mystery. It is quite evident that 
the composition as well as the representation of these pieces was far 
less exclusively in the hands of ecclesiastics, who thus began to lose 
that influence over the popular mind which they derived from their 
monopoly of knowledge. Perhaps, however, it would be a more legiti- 
mate explanation of this change to say, that the spread of civilization 
among the laitj^, and the hostility which was gradually but rapidly un- 
dermining the foundations of Catholicism in England, had contributed 
to put an end to that monopoly; for many of our early Moralities, 
though the production of Churchmen, as in the case of Bishop Bale, 
were the production of Churchmen strongly tainted with the unortho- 
dox opinions of the early reformers. The subjects of these dramas, 
instead of being purely religious, were moral, as their name implies; 
and the ethical lessons were conveyed by an action and dramatis j^cr- 
soncs of an abstract or allegorical kind. Thus, instead of the Deity 
and his angels, the Saints, the Patriarchs, and the characters of the 
Old and New Testament, the persons who figure in the Moralities are 
Everj^-Man — a general type or expression of humanity — Lusty Juven- 
tus — who represents the follies and weaknesses of j-outh — Good 
Counsel, Repentance, Gluttony, Pride, Avarice, and the like. The 
action was in general exceedingly simple, and the tone grave and doc- 
trinal, though of course the same necessity existed as before for the 
introduction of comic scenes. The Devil was far too popular and useful 
a personage to be suppressed; so his battles and scoldings with the 
Vice, or Clown, were still retained to furnish forth " a fit of mirth." 
Our readers may form some idea of the general character of these pieces 
by the analysis of one, entitled The Cradle of Security, the outline of 
which has been preserved in the narrative of an old man who had 
formed one of the audience in his early childhood. It was intended as 
a lesson to careless and sensual sovereigns. The principal personage is 
a King, who, neglecting his high duties and plunged in voluptuous pleas- 
ures, is put to sleep in a cradle, to which he is bound by golden chains 
held by four beautiful ladies, who sing as they rock the cradle. Sud- 
denly tlie courtiers are all dispersed by a terrible knock at the door, 
and the king, awaking, finds himself in the custody of two stern and 
tremendous figures, sent from God to punish his voluptuousness and vice. 
In a similar way the action of the Morality Lusty Juve7itus contains a 
vivid and even humorous picture of the extravagance and debauchery of a 
young heir, surrounded by companions, the Virtues and the Vices, some 
of whom endeavor in vain to restrain his passions, while others flatter 


his depraved inclinations. This piece also ends with a demonstration 
of the inevitable misery and punishment which follow a departure from 
the path of virtue and religion. It is impossible to draw any strong 
line of demarcation, either chronological or critical, between the Mys- 
tery and Morality. The one species imperceptibly melts into the other; 
though the general points of distinction are clear and obvious enough. 
The Morality also had a strong tendency to partake of the character of 
the court masque, in which the Elements, the Virtues, the Vices, or tile 
various reigns of nature, were introduced cither to convey some physical 
or philosophical instruction in the guise of allegory, or to compliment 
a king or great personage on a festival occasion. Of this class is Skel- 
ton's masque, to which I have alluded in a former chapter, and to which 
he gave the title of Magjiificence. A very industrious writer of these 
Moralities was Bishop Bale (1495-1563), who will also be mentione^. 
presently (p. 114) as one of the founders of our national drama. ..- 

§ 3. Springing from the Moralities, and bearing some general resem- 
blance to them, though exhibiting a still nearer approach to the regu- 
lar drama, are the Interludes^ a class of compositions in dialogue much 
shorter in extent and more merry and farcical in subject, which were 
exceedingly fashionable about the time when the great controversy was 
raging between the Catholic church and the Reformed religion in Eng- 
land. A prolific author of these grotesque and merry pieces was John 
Heywood, a man of learning and accomplishment, but who seems to 
have performed the duties of a sort of jester at the court of Henry VIII. 
Heywood was an ardent Catholic ; and the stage at that time was used 
by both religious parties to throw odium and ridicule upon the doc- 
trines of their opponents ; the Catholics delighting to bring forward 
Luther, Catherine de Bora, and the principal figures among the reform- 
ers, in a light at once detestable and ridiculous, and the Protestants 
returning the compliment by showing up the corruptions and vices of 
the Pope and the hierarchy. The Interludes, being short, were, it is sup- 
posed, performed either in the eiit/actcs of the longer and more solemn 
Moralities, or represented on temporary stages between the inter^ls A 
of the interminable banquets and festivities of those days. V^ J^ 

§ 4. In the preceding rapid sketch of the dramatic amusements of 
our ancestors, I have endeavored to give a general idea of these enter- 
tainments in their complete and normal form ; that is, when the action 
selected for the subject of the piece was illustrated with dialogue, and 
the exhibitor addressed himself to the ears as well as to the eyes of his 
audience. It must not be forgotten that both the subjects of the Mys- 
teries and those of the Moralities were sometimes exhibited in dumb 
show. A scene of Holy Writ or some event in the life of a saint was 
represented in a kind of tableau viva?tt by disguised and costumed per- 
sonages, and this representation was often placed on a sort of wheeled 
platform and exhibited continually during those long processions which 
foi-med the principal feature of the festivities of ancient times. These 
tableaux vivants were also introduced into the great halls during the 
elaborate banquets which were the triumphs of ancient magnificence : 

A.D. I50O.] LATIN- PLAYS. 113 

and thus this species of entertainment is inseparably connected with 
those pageants so often emploj'ed to gratify the vanity of citizens, or 
to compliment an illustrious visitor. These pageants, whether simply 
consisting of the exhibition, on some lofty platform, in the porch or 
churchyard of a cathedral, in the Town Hall or over the city gate, of 
a number of figures suitably dressed, or accompanying their action 
with poetical declamation and music, necessarily partook in all the of taste which characterized the age : the Prophets and Saints 
who welcomed the roy# stranger in the thirteenth century with bar- 
barous Latin hymns, were gradually supplanted by the Virtues and 
allegorical qualities ; and these in their turn, when the Renaissance 
had disseminated a universal passion for classical imagery, made way 
for the Cupids, the Muses, and other classical personages whose influ- 
ence has continued almost to the literature of our own time. Such 
spectacles as I have just been alluding to, which were so common that 
the chronicles of every European nation are filled with records of them, 
were of course frequently exhibited at the Universities : but in the 
hands of these bodies the shows naturally acquired a more learned 
character than they had elsewhere. It was almost universal in those 
times that the students should employ Latin on all official occasions : 
this was necessary, partly from the multitude of nations composing the 
body of the students, and who required some common language which 
they could all understand. Lat^n, therefore, was by a thousand difter- 
ent laws and regulations obligatory ; and this occurred not only in the 
Universities, but also in many conventual and monastic societies. It 
was therefore natural that the public amusements of the University 
should partake of the same character. A large number of pieces, gen- 
erally written upon the models of Terence and Seneca, were produced 
and represented at this time. In the great outbreak of revolt against 
the authority of scholasticism which preceded the Reformation, the 
return to classical models in dramatic composition was general, and 
Reuchlin boasted that he was the first to furnish the youth of Germany 
with comedies bearing some similarity to the masterpieces of Terence. 
The times of Elizabeth and James were peculiarly fertile in Latin dramas 
composed at the Universities ; and these sovereigns, the first of whom 
was remarkably learned in an age of general diffusion of classical studies, 
while in the second erudition had degenerated into pedantry, were en- 
tertained b}' the students of Oxford and Cambridge with Latin plays. 

§ 5, We have now traced the progress of the Dramatic art from its 
first rude infancy in England, and have seen how every step of that 
advance removed it farther and farther from a purely religious, and 
brought it closer and closer to a profane character. The last step of 
the progress was the creation of what we now understand under the 
tei-m dramatic, viz. the scenic representation, by means of the action 
and dialogue of human personages, of some event of history or social 
life. As in the first appearance of this, the most perfect form which 
the art could attain, the influence of the great models of ancient litera- 
ture must have been very powerful, dramatic compositions class them- 
lO * 


selves, by the very nature of the case, into the two great categories of 
Tragedy and Comedy, and even borrow from the classical models details 
of an unessential kind, as for example the use of the Chorus, which, 
originally consisting of a numerous bod^^ of performers, was gradually 
reduced, though its name and functions were retained to a certain 
degree by the old English playwrights, to a single individual, as in sev- 
eral of Shakspeare's dramas. It was about the middle of the sixteenth 
century that a considerable activity of creation was first perceptible in 
this department. John Bale (1495-1563), t^ author of many semi- 
polemical plays, partaking in some measure of the character of the 
Mystery, the Morality, and the Interlude, set the example of £xtracting 
materials for rude historical dramas from the Chronicles of his native 
country. His drama of King JoJdi occupies an intermediate place 
between the Moralities and historical plays. But the most remarkable 
progress in this department of literature is to be found in a considera- 
ble number of pieces, written to be performed by the students of the 
Inns of Court and the Universities, for the amusement of the sov- 
ereign on high festival occasions : for it must be remembered that the 
establishment of regular theatres and the formation of regular theatri- 
cal troops did not take place for a considerable period after these first 
dramatic attempts. The great entertainments of the rich and power- 
ful municipal corporations, of which the Lord Mayor's annual Show in 
London, and similar festivities in many other towns, still exist as curi- 
ous relics, prove that the same circumstances -which had generated the 
annual performance of the Chester and Coventry plays, and maintained 
those exhibitions uninterruptedly during a very long succession of 
years, still continued to exist. Contrary to w^hat might have been 
expected, the first tragedies produced in the English language were 
remarkable for the gravity and elevation of their language, the dignity 
of their sentiments, and the dryness and morality of their style. They 
are, it is true, extremely crowded with bloody and dolorous events, 
rebellions, treasons, murders, and regicides : but there is very little 
attempt to delineate character, and certainly not the slightest trace of 
that admixture of comic action and dialogue which is so characteristic 
of the later theatre of England, in which the scene struggled to imitate 
the irregularity and the vastness of human life. A good example of 
these early plays is the Tragedy of Gorboduc^ or Ferrex afid Porrex, 
written by Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst (the principal writer in 
the " Mirrour for Magistrates "), and Thomas Norton, and acted in 1562 
for the entertainment of Queen Elizabeth, by the gentlemen of the 
Inner Temple. The subject of this play is borrowed from the old half- 
mythological Chronicles of Britain, and the principal event is similar 
to the story of Eteocles and Polynices, a legend which has furnished 
the materials not only to the genius of ^schjdus, but to that of Racine 
and Schiller. But though the subject of this piece is derived from the 
national records, whether authentic or mythical, the treat7nent exhibits 
strong marks of classic imitation, though rather after the manner of Sen- 
eca than of -^schylus or Sophocles. Seneca enjoyed a most surprising 

A. D. 1566.] EARLY TRAGEDIES. 115 

reputation at the revival of Letters. The dialogue oi Girhoduc is in 
blank verse,* which is regular and carefully constructed ; but it is 
totally destitute of variety of pause, and consequently is a most insuffi- 
cient vehicle for dramatic dialogue. The sentence almost invariably 
terminates with the line, and the effect of the whole is insupportably 
formal and heavy; for no weight and depth of moral and political 
ai)othegm, with which the work abounds, can compensate for the 
total want of life, of sentiment, and passion. Another work of a simi- 
lar character is Damon and Pythias^ acted before the Queen at Christ 
Chuixh, Oxford, in 1566. This play, which is in rhj-me, is a mixture 
of tragedy and comedy. Its author was Richard Edwards, the com- 
piler of the miscellany called The Paradise of Dainty Devices (see p. 
'^''^^. He also wrote Palamon and Arcite, the beautiful story so inim- 
itably treated by Chaucer in The Knighfs Tale, and afterwards in Beau- 
mont and Fletcher's romantic play The Tzvo Noble Kinsmen. In 1578 
was acted Promos and Cassandra, by George Whetstone, chiefly 
curious as having furnished the subject of Shakspeare's Measure for 
Measure. All these plays are marked by a general similarity of style 
and treatment, and belong to about the same period. 

§ 6. In the department of Comedy the first English works which 
made their appearance very little anterior to the above pieces, offer a 
most striking contrast in their tone and treatment. It would almost 
seem as if the national genius, destined to stand unrivalled in the pecu- 
liar vein of humor, was tcf prove that while in tragic and sublime delin- 
eations it might encounter, not indeed superiors, but rivals, — in the 
grotesque, the odd, the laughable, it was to stand alone. The earliest 
comedj^ in the language was Ralph Royster Doyster, acted in 155 1, and 
written by Nicholas Udall, who for a long time executed the duties 
of Master of Eton College. This was followed, about fourteen years 
later, by Gammer Gurton's Needle, composed by John Still, after- 
wards Bishop of Bath and Wells, and who had previously been Master 
of St. John's and Trinity Colleges in Cambridge. This piece was prob- 
ably acted by the students of the society over which the author pre- 
sided, and was long considered to have been the earliest regular comedy 
in the English language : but it was afterwards established that the 
work of Udall preceded it by a short interval. Both these works are 
highly curious and interesting, not only as being the oldest specimens 
of the class of literature to which they belong, but in some measure 
from their intrinsic merit. There can be no question that the former 
comedy is far superior to the second : it is altogether of a higher order, 
both in conception and execution. The action takes place in London, 
and the principal characters are a rich and pretty widow, her lover, and 
several of her suitors, the chief of whom is the foolish personage who 
gives the title to the play. This ridiculous pretender to gayety and 

* Blank verse was first introduced by Lord Surrey in his translation of the 
/Eneid (see p. 66). It was next used by Grimoald (see p. 70), who, according 
ro Warton, gave it " new strength, elegance, and modulation." Sackville was 
Ihe third writer who employed it. 



love, a young heir just put into possession of his fortune, is surrounded 
by a number of intriguers and flatterers who pretend to be his friends, 
and who lead their dupe /into all sorts of absurd and humiliating 
scrapes ; and the piece ends with the return of the favored lover from 
a voyage which he had undertaken in a momentary pique. The man- 
ners represented are those of the middle class of the period, and the 
picture given of London citizen life in the middle of the sixteenth cen- 
tury is curious, animated, and natural. The language is lively, and 
the dialogue is carried on in a sort of loose doggerel rhj-me, very well 
adapted to represent comic conversation. In general the intrigue of 
this drama is deserving of approbation ; the plot is well imagined, and 
the reader's curiosity well kept alive. Gammer Gurton's Needle is a 
composition of a much lower and more farcical order. The scene is 
laid in the humblest rustic life, and all the dramatis personce belong to 
the uneducated class. The principal action of the comedy is the sud- 
den loss of a needle with which Gammer {Commtre}) Gurton has been 
mending the inexpressibles of her man Hodge, a loss comparatively 
serious, when needles were rare and costly. The whole intrigue con- 
sists in the search instituted after this unfortunate little implement, 
which is at last discovered by Hodge himself, on suddenly sitting down, 
sticking in the garment w^hich Gammer Gurton had been repairing. Ifl. 
A comparison between these early comedies, and Gamjner Gurton in 
particular, and that curious and interesting piece Maistre Pierre Patke- 
liii, which is regarded as the first specimen of the French comic stage, 
would not be uninstructive. In both the transition from the sottie or 
farce to regular comedy is plainly perceptible ; and it must be con- 
fessed that in the humorous delineation of character, as well as in 
probability and variety of incident, the French piece has decidedly the 
advantage. The form of the dialogue, being in both cases a sort of 
easy doggerel verse, little removed from the real language of the classes 
A. represented, has great similarity; though the French comedy is, as far 
as its diction is concerned, far more archaic and difficult to a modern 
French reader than the English of Gatnmer Gurton to an English one. 
This indeed may be generally remarked, that our language has under- 
gone less radical changes in the space of time which has elapsed from 
the first appearance of literary productions among us than any of the 
other cultivated dialects of Europe. 

§ 7. It will be inferred from what has been said respecting the cus- 
tom of acting plan's at Court, in the mansions of great lords, in the 
Universities, and in the Inns of Law, that regular public theatres were 
not yet in existence. The actors were to a certain degree amateurs, 
and were frequently literally the domestics of the sovereign and the 
nobles, wearing their badges and liveries, and protected by their pa- 
tronage. The line of demarcation between musical performers, singers, 
jugglers, tumblers, and actors, was for a long period very faintly traced. 
The Court plays were frequently represented by the children of the 
royal chapel, and placed, as the dramatic profession in general was for 
a long time, under the peculiar supervision of the Office of the Revels, 

A. D. 1580.] EARLY THEATRES. 117 

which was obliged also to exercise the duties of a dramatic censor. 
These bodies of actors, singers, tumblers, &;c., were frequently in the 
habit of wandering about the country, performing wherever they could 
find an audience, sometimes in the mansions of rural grandees, some- 
times in the town halls of provincial municipalities, sometimes in the 
court-yards of inns. Protected by the letters-patent and the livery of 
their master against the severe laws which qualified strollers as vaga- 
bonds, they generally began their proceedings by begging the counte- 
nance and protection of the authorities ; and the accounts of the ancient 
municipal bodies, and the household registers of the great families of 
former times, abound in entries of permiss^pus given to such strolling 
parties of actors, tumblers, and musicians, and of sums granted to 
them in recompense of their exertions. It is curious to remark that 
the amount of such sums seems to have been calculated less in refer- 
ence to the talent displayed in the representation, than to the degree 
of respect which the grantors wished to show to the patron under 
whose protection the troop happened to be. This state of things, how- 
ever, had existed long before ; for in the accounts of the ancient mon- 
asteries we frequently meet with entries of gratuities given, not only 
to travelling preachers from other religious bodies, but even to min- 
strels, jugglers, and other professors of the arts of entertainment. 
Nothing was more easy than to transform the ancient hall of a college, 
palace, or nobleman's mansion into a theatre sufficiently convenient in 
the then primitive state of dramatic representation. The dais or elevat- 
ed platform at the upper extremity was a stage ready made ; it was only 
necessary to hang up a curtain, and to establish a few screens covered 
with tapestry, to produce a scene sufficient for the purpose. When the 
performance took place in an inn, which was very common, the stage 
was established on a platform in the centre of the yard ; the lower classes 
of spectators stood upon the ground in front of it, which custom is 
preserved in the designation pa j'ter re, still given by the French to the 
//V. The latter denomination is a record of the circumstance that in 
England theatrical representations often took place in cockfu'ts. Indeed 
there at one time existed in London a theatre called the Cockpit, from 
the circumstance of its having been originally an arena for that sport. 
The ancient inns, as may be seen by many specimens still in existence, 
were built round an open court-yard, and along each story internally 
ran an open gallery, upon which opened the doors and windows of the 
small chambers occupied by the guests. In order to witness the perform- 
ance the inmates had only to come out into the gallery in front of their 
rooms; and the convenience of this arrangement unquestionably sug- 
gested the principal features of construction when buildings were first 
specifically destined for scenic performances. The galleries of the old 
inns were the prototj'-pes of the circles of boxes in our modern theatres. 
But the taste for dramatic entertainments grew rapidly more general 
and ardent; and in the course of time, in many places, particularly in 
London, not only did special societies of professional actors begin to 
come into existence, but special edifices were constructed for their exhi- 


bitions. Indeed at one period it is supposed that London and its 
suburbs contained at least twelve different theatres, of various degrees 
of size and convenience. Of these the most celebrated was undoubt- 
edly the Globe, for at that time each plaj^house had its iign, and the 
company which performed in it were also the proprietors of a smaller 
house on the opposite, or London side of the Thames, called the Black- 
friars, situated very nearly on the spot now occupied by the gigantic 
establishment of the " Times " newspaper. The great majority of the 
London theatres were on the southern or Surrey bank of the Thames, 
in order to be out of the jurisdiction of the municipality of the City, 
which, having been from awery early period strongly infected with the 
gloomy doctrines of Puritanism, was violently' opposed to theatrical 
entertainments, and carried on against the plaj^ers and the playhouses 
a constant war, in which their opponents repelled the persecutions of 
authority with all the petulance of wit and caricature. Some of these 
theati'es were cockpits or arenas for bull-baiting and bear-baiting, 
either transformed into regular playhouses, or alternately emploj'cd for 
theatrical and other spectacles : but the Globe, and probablj^ others as 
well, were specifically erected for the purpose of the drama. They 
were all, however, very poor and squalid, as compared with the mag- 
nificent theatres of the present day, and retained in their form and 
arrangement many traces of the ancient model — the inn-yard. The 
building was octagon, and entirely uncovered, excepting over the stage, 
where a thatched roof protected the actors from the weather; and this 
thatched roof was, in 1613, the cause of the total destruction of the 
Globe, in consequence of the w^adding of a chamber, or small cannon, 
lodging in it, fired during the representation of Shakspeare's Henry 
VIII. The boxes or rootns, as they were then styled, were of course 
arranged nearly as in the present day, but the musicians, instead of 
being placed, as now, in the orchestra, or space between the pit and the 
stage, were established in a lofty gallery over the scene. 
''^The most remarkable peculiarity of the ancient English theatres was 
the total absence of painted scenery, which in more recent times has 
been carried to such a height of artistic splendor and illusion. A few 
traverses, as they were called, or screens of cloth or tapestry, gave the 
actors the opportunity of making their exits and entrances; and in 
order to give the audience an idea of the place where the action was 
to be supposed, they emploj^ed the singularly primitive expedient of 
exhibiting a placard, bearing the name of Rome, Athens, London, or 
Florence, as the case might be. So exceedingly rude an expedient as 
this is the more singular as the English drama is remarkable for its 
frequent changes of scene. But though they were forced to content 
themselves with this very inartificial mode of indicating the place of 
the action, the details of the locality could be represented with a much 
^~ more accurate imitation. Thus, if a bedroom were to be supposed, a 
^ bed was pushed for^vard on the stage ; a table covered with bottles and 
tankards, and surrounded with benches, easily suggested a tavern ; a 
gilded chair surmounted by a canopy, and called a state, gave the idea 

A. D. 1580.] EARLY THEATRES. 119 

of a palace, an altar of a church, and the like. At the back of the 
stage was erected a permanent wooden construction, like a scaffold or 
a high wall; and this served for those innumerable incidents where one 
of the di'amatis pcrsoncs \& to overhear the others without being him- 
self seen, and also represented an infinity of objects according to the 
requirements of the piece, such as the wall of a castle or besieged city, 
the outside of a house, as when a dialogue is to take place between one 
person at a window and another on the exterior. Thus in the admira- 
ble garden-scene of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet probably spoke either 
from the sufnmit of this wall or from a window established in it, while 
Romeo stood on the ground outside; in the same way the "men of 
Angiers " spoke to the besieging English from the top of their wall, 
and the storming of Harfleur divided the action between Henry and his 
troops upon the stage and the defenders of the city upon the platform. 
In those accessories to scenic illusion which in the language of the 
English stage are called properties, the old Elizabethan theatres were 
better provided than could have been expected, as may be seen from 
very curious lists of such articles which have accidentally descended to 
us from the ancient greenrooms. In point of costume very little atten- 
tion was paid to chronological or national accuracy. The drajnatis 
fersonce of all ages and countries were in general habited in the dress 
of the period; this was fortunately a graceful, rich, and picturesque 
costume ; and we may judge, from the innumerable philippics of divines 
and moralists against the luxury of the actors, that a very considerable 
degree of splendor in theatrical dress was common. The employment 
of the contemporary costume in plaj^s whose action was supposed to 
take place in Greece, Rome, or Persia, naturally led into gross anach- 
ronisms and absurdities, arming the assassins of Caesar with Spanish 
rapiers, or furnishing Carthaginian senators with watches ; but these 
anachronisms were not likely to strike in a very offensive manner the 
mixed and uncritical spectators of those times. It may indeed be said 
that the meagre material aids to the illusion of the scene which were 
then at the disposal of the dramatic author were in reality of the great- 
est service to the poetical and imaginative department of his art. Not 
being able to depend upon the scene-painter and the machinist, he was 
obliged to trust to his own resources, and to describe in words what 
could not be " oculis subjecta fidelibus." It is to this circumstance that 
we owe those inimitable pictures of natural and artificial objects and 
scenery with which the dramas of this age are so prodigally adorned. 
Though the majority of the characters were clothed in the habit of the 
daj', there were certain conventional attributes always associated with 
particular supernatural personages,, such as angels, devils, ghosts, and 
so on. Thus " a roobe for to goo invisibell " is one of the items in the 
lists of properties to which I have alluded above; and in all probability 
the spectral armor of the Ghost in Hamlet was to be found in the ward- 
robe of the ancient theatres. It appears that the dresses and properties 
belonged to persons who derived their livelihood from hiring these 
articles at a fixed price per night to the perfoi-mers. 

120 THE DAWN OF THE ^DR AM A. [Chap. VI. 

The curtain, that essential appendage to every theatre, is supposed 
to have opened perpendicularly in the middle, instead of being wound 
up and let down as at present; and besides this principal curtain there 
seem to have been others occasionally drawn so as to divide the stage 
into several apartments, and withdrawn to exhibit one of the charac- 
ters as in a tent or closet. 

The cost of admission to the theatres was small, and it was possible 
to secure the use of a private box or rootJi ; for it was then considered 
hardly proper for a lady to be present at the representations of the 
public theatres : it was certainly long before any of ouc sovereigns 
deigned to witness any of those performances. Whenever the monarch 
desired to see a play the actors were summoned to court; and the 
accounts of the chamberlain's office furnish abundant entries of the 
recompenses ordered to be distributed on such occasions among the 
performers. Several of the companies of actors were under the imme- 
diate patronage of the sovereign, of different members of the royal 
family and other great personages of the realm : they were bound to 
" exercise themselves industriously in the art and quality of stage- 
playing," in order to be alwaj-s ready to furnish entertainment to their 
employer, and in return for these services they were protected against 
interlopers and rivals, and above all against the implacable hostility of 
the Puritanical municipality of London. It is perhaps to this cir- 
cumstance that we may attribute the designation o^ Her Majesty'' s Ser- 
vants^ which our modern companies of actors still retain in their play- 
bills ; and the old custom of the actors at the end of the piece falling 
upon their knees and putting up a solemn prayer to Heaven in favor 
of the sovereign is perhaps commemorated in the words Vivat Rcgina, 
with which our modern playbills terminate. The usual hour of repre- 
sentation was anciently very early, in accordance with the habit of 
dining before midday, and the signal was given by the hoisting of a 
flag at the summit of the theatre, which remained floating during the 
whole performance. 

The piece commenced with three flourishes of a trumpet, and at the 
third soundings as it was called, the prologue was declaimed by a 
solemn personage whose regular costume was a long black velvet cloak. 
At the end of the piece, or occasionallj- perhaps between the acts, the 
clown or jester performed what was called a jig, a species of entertain- 
ment in which our ancestors seem to have delighted. This was a kind 
of comic ballad or declamation in doggerel verse, either reatly or pro- 
fessedly an improvisation of the moment, introducing any person or 
event which was exciting the ridicule of the day, and accompanied by 
the performer with tabor and pipe and with grotesque and farcical 
dancing. As the comic actors who performed the clowns and jesters, 
then indispensable personages in all pieces, tragic and comic, were 
allowed to introduce extemporary witticisms at their pleasure, they 
were probably a clever and inventive class ; and the enormous popular- 
ity of several of them, as Tarlton, Kempe, and Armin, seems to prove 
that their drollery must have been intenselj'- amusing. 

A. D. 1580. J EARLY THEATRES. 121 

During the representation of a deep tragedy the whole stage was 
sometimes hung with black; a very singular custom, to which innu- 
merable allusions are made in our older pieces. On ordinary occasions 
the stage Avas strewed with rushes, as indeed were rooms generally in 
those days ; and on these rushes, or on stools brought for the purpose, 
it was customary for the fine gentlemen to sit, amid the full business 
of the stage, displaying their splendid clothes, smoking clay-pipes, 
which was then the height of fashion, exchanging repartees and often 
coarse abuse with the audience before the curtain, and criticising in a 
loud voice the actors and the piece. In England, as in Spain, the com- 
panies of players have been generally, from time immemorial, private 
and independent associations. The property and profits of the theatre 
were divided into a number of shares, as in a joint-stock company ; 
and the number of these shareholders being limited, whatever addi- 
tional assistance the society required was obtamed by engaging the 
services of kircd mc?t, who usually acted the inferior parts. Many 
bonds stipulating the terms of such engagements are in existence; and 
one of the conditions usually was, that the actor so engaged should 
give his services at a fixed price, and should undertake to perform for 
no other company during the time specified in his engagement. These 
men had no right to any share in the profits of the society. That 
these profits were very considerable and constant, and that the career 
of an actor of eminence was often a very lucrative one, is abundantly 
■proved, not only by the frequent allusions to the pride, luxury, and 
magnificence in dress of the successful performers, which are met with 
in the sermons, pamphlets, and satires of the day, but still more 
decisively by the wills left by many of these actors, specifying the large 
fortunes they sometimes accumulated by the practice of their art. Ex- 
amples of this will be found in the cases of Shakspeare, the great 
tragedian Burbage, and the well-known charitable institution due to 
the philanthropy and piety of Edward Alleyn. 

It must never be lost sight of, by any one who wishes to form a clear 
notion of the state of the elder English drama, that the female parts 
were invariably acted by boys or young men. No woman appeared on 
our stage till about the time of the Restoration, and then, singularly 
enough, the earliest part acted by a female was the Desdemona of our 
great dramatist. This innovation was at first considered as something 
shocking and monstrous ; but the evident advantages and propriety of 
the cha"8ge soon silenced all opposition. The novelty itself first origi- 
nated in Italy. We must not, however, imagine that because the parts 
of women were intrusted to male representatives they were necessarily 
ill performed : there are abundant proofs that some of the young actors 
who devoted themselves to this line of their art, attained by practice 
to a high degree both of elegance and pathos. They -were often sing- 
ing-boys of the royal chapel, and as long as their falsetto voice re- 
mained pure, not "cracked i' the ring," as Hamlet says, they were no 
unfit representatives of the graceful and beautiful heroines of Shak- 
speare, Ford, or Fletcher. The testimony of contemporaries proves 


that some of them, as for example the famous Kynaston, so admirably 
seized all the details of the characters they personated, that the illusion 
was complete ; and they were no unworthy rivals of the great artists of 
those days. It is true that this custom of the female parts being acted 
by boys may have in some degree exaggerated that tendency to double 
entendre and indecent equivoque which has unfortunately' been but too 
universally the vice of the stage : but even this objection will lose some 
of its weight when we reflect that the habitual appearance of women 
on the stage seems, so far from checking, absolutely to have aggravated 
the frightful profligacy and immorality which defiled the society and 
the literature of the country at the epoch of the Restoration, and which 
reached its highest intensity in compositions destined for the stage. 

§ 8. Perhaps the most remarkable peculiarity of the dramatic pro- 
fession at this period of our literary history was the frequent combina- 
tion, in one and the same person, of the qualities of player and 
dramatic author. I do not mean to imply, of course, that all- the 
actors of this splendid epoch were dramatists; but nearly all the dra- 
matic authors were actors by profession. This circumstance must have 
obviously exerted a mighty influence in modifying the dramatic produc- 
tions composed under such conditions — an influence not of course 
exclusively favorable, but which must have powerfully contributed to 
give to those productions that strong and individual character, that 
g-out du terrotr, which renders them so inimitable. It is evident that 
a dramatic writer, however great his genius, unacquainted practically 
with the mechanism of the stage, will frequently fail in giving to his 
work that directness and vivacity which is the essential element of 
popular success. Such a poet, writing in his closet under the influence 
not of scefit'c but of merelj'^ literary emotions, may produce admirable 
declamation, delicate anatomy of character, profound exhibition of 
human passion; but the most valuable element of scenic success, viz., 
drainatic effect^ rnay be entirely absent. This precious quality may be 
possessed by a writer with not a tithe of the genius of the former, and 
for the absence of this quality no amount of abstract literary merit can 
compensate. A striking example of this may be found in the French 
theatre. All the admirable qualities of Racine and Corneille have not 
been able to preserve their tragedies from comparative neglect as trage- 
dies, /. e. in a theatrical point of view. As literary compositions they 
will ahvays be studied and admired by every one who desires to make 
acquaintance with the higher qualities of the French language and 
poetry; but as tragedies, few persons can now witness their perform- 
ance without experiencing a sensation of weariness which they may 
attempt to disguise, but which they certainly cannot escape. It has 
been the fashion to explain this by attributing it to changes in the 
manners and habits of societj'^; but how happens it that the scenes of 
Moliere ahvays retain their freshness and vivacity? The rerson is, that 
Moliere, himself a skilful actor, as well as an unequalled painter of that 
range of comic character which he has delineated, gave to his piece? 
the element of scenic effect ; an element which will successfully replace 

A. D. 1580.] ACTORS AND AUTHORS. 123 

the absence of much higher literary qualities, and which can be acquired 
only by the instinct of the stage. An immense majority of the drama- 
tists of our Elizabethan theatre .were actors, and this is why their writ- 
ings are so often defiled by very gross faults of coarseness, violence, 
buffoonery, bombast, bad taste, and extravagance — such faults, in 
short, as were naturally to be expected from actor-authors writing in 
great haste, addressing themselves to a very miscellaneous public, and 
thinking not of future glory, but of immediate profit and success ; but 
at the same time it is the reason why their writings, despite of all these, 
and even graver faults, invariably possess intense dramatic interest, and 
an effectiveness for the absence of which no purely literary merit can in 
any way compensate. But though professional actors, this brilliant con- 
stellation of writers, by a chance which has never been repeated in liter- 
ary history, consisted of men of liberal and often learned education. 
Generally young men of strong passions, frequently of gentle birth, they 
in many cases left the university for the theatre, where they hoped to 
obtain an easy subsistence at a time when both writing for the stage 
and acting were well recompensed by the public, and where the joyous 
and irregular mode of life possessed such charms for ardent passions 
and lax morality. Their career was, in too many cases, a miserable 
succession of revelry and distress, of gross debauchery and ignoble 
privation ; but the examples of many showed that prudence and indus- 
try would be rewarded in this career with the same certainty as in oth- 
ers, and the success of Burbage, Alleyn, and Shakspeare can be put 
forward as the contrast to the debauched lives and miserable deaths of 
Marlowe, Greene, and Nash. This very irregularity of life, however, 
may have contributed to give to the works of this time that large spirit 
of observation, that universality of painting, which certainly distin- 
guished them. The career of these men, at least in its commencement 
and general outlines, was the same. They attached themselves, in the 
double quality of actors and poets, to one of the numerous companies 
then existing; and in many instances began their literary labors by 
rewriting and rearranging plays already exhibited to the public, and 
which a little alteration could often render more suitable to the peculiar 
resources of the company. Having by this comparatively humble 
work of making rechauffes acquired skill and facility, the dramatic 
aspirant would bring out an original work, either alone or in partner- 
ship with some brother playwright; and in this way he would be fairly 
started as a writer. It was of course very much to the interest of a 
company of actors to possess an exclusive right to the services of an 
able or popular dramatist; and his productions, while they remained 
in manuscript, continued to be the exclusive property of the company. 
Thus the troops of actors had the very strongest motive for taking 
every precaution that their pieces should 7iot be printed, publication 
instantly annihilating their monopoly, and allowing rival companies to 
profit by their labors; and this is the reason why comparatively so few 
of the dramas of this period, in spite of their unequalled merit and 
their great popularity, were ccmmitted to the press during the lives, at 


least, of their avithors. It also explains the singularly careless execu- 
tion of such copies as were printed, these having been given to the 
public in many cases surreptitiously, and in direct contravention to the 
wishes and interests of the author. It must be confessed that in the six- 
teenth century in England theatrical writing was considered the very 
lowest branch of literature, if indeed it was regarded as literature at 
all. The profession of actor, though often profitable, and exercised by 
many individuals with dignity and respectability, was certainly not 
looked upon by society in a very favorable light. The vices and prof- 
ligacy of many of its members seemed almost to justify the infamy 
stamped on the occupation by the old law, which classed plaj'ers with 
" rogues and vagabonds." Placed in such a social atmosphere, and 
exposed to such powerful and opposing influences, the dramatic author 
of those times was likely to exhibit precisely the tendencies which we ^ 
actually find characterizing his works, and recorded in his life. ^^--^^ 

§ 9. I will now give a rapid sketch of the principal English play- ' 
Wrights anterior to Shakspeare. John Lyly (b. about 1554) composed 
several court plaj's and pageants, and is supposed to have enjoyed in 
some degree the favor of Elizabeth, for we know that he was at one 
time a petitioner for the reversion of the ofiice of Master of the Revels. 
His few plays were written upon classical, or rather mythological sub- 
jects, as the story of Eiidymion, Sappho and P/iaon, and Alexander 
and Camfasfe. He has a rich and fantastic imagination, and his wTit-^ 
ings exhibit genius and elegance, though strongly tinctured with a 
peculiar kind of affectation with which he infected the language of the 
Court, the aristocracy, and even to a considerable degree literature . \^ 
itself, till it fell under the ridicule of Shakspeare, like the parallel 
absurdity in France, the Phlbus of the Hotel de Rambouillet, under 
the lash of the Prdci'euses Ridicules and the Critique de VEcolc dcs 
Fejnmes. Lyly was the English Gongora ; and his absurd though 
ingenious jargon, like the csiilo culto in Spain, became the fashionable 
affectation of the day. It consisted in a kind of exaggerated vivacity 
of imagery and expression ; the remotest and most unexpected analo- 
gies w^ere sought for, and crowded into every sentence. The reader 
may form some notion of this mode of writing (which was called Eu- 
phuism, from Lj'ly's once fashionable book entitled Euphues and his 
England^ by consulting the caricature of it which Scott has introduced 
in the character of the courtier Sir Piercy Shafton in The Monastery. 
In fact the Euphuism of Lyly was the somewhat exaggerated wit of 
the style of Sydney, still further outre. Lyly was a man of consider- 
able classical acquirements, and had been educated at Oxford. His 
lyrics are extremely graceful and harmonious, and even as a plaj'wright 
his merits are rather lyrical than dramatic. 

George Peele, like Lyly, had received a liberal education at Oxford. 
He was one of Shakspeare's fellow-actors and fellow-shareholders in 
the Blackfriars Theatre. He had also been employed by the City of 
London in composing and preparing those spectacles and shows which 
formed so great a portion of ancient civic festivity'. His earliest work, 


A. D. 1580.] EARLY DRAMATISTS. 125 

T/ze Arralgjiment of Paris, was printed anonymously in 1584. His 
most celebrated dramatic works were the David and Bcihsabe, and 
Absolom, in which there are great richness and beauty of language, and 
occasional indications of a high order of pathetic and elevated emotion; 
but his versification, though sweet, has little variety; and the luxuri- 
ous and sensuous descriptions in which Peele most delighted are so 
numerous that they become rather tiresome in the end. It should be 
remarked* that this poet was the first to give an example of that peculiar 
kind of historical play in which Shakspeare was afterwards so consum- 
mate a master. His Edvjard I. is, though monotonous, declamatory, 
and stiff", in some sense the forerunner of such works as Richard II., 
Richard III., or Ilciiry V. 

Thomas Kyd, who lived about the same time, is principally notice- 
able as having probably been the original author of that famous play 
upon which so many dramatists tried their hands in the innumerable 
recastings which it received, and which have caused it to be ascribed in 
succession to almost the whole body of the elder Elizabethan dramatists. 
Of this piece, in spite of its occasional extravagance, even the greatest of 
these authors might have been proud. It is called Hiero7iymo, the Span- 
ish Tragedy. Its popularity was very great, and furnishes incessant 
allusions to the playwrights of the day. The subject is exceedingly 
gloomy, bloodj', and dolorous ; but the pictures of grief, despair, re- 
venge, and madness, with which it abounds, not only testify high dra- 
matic power of conception, but must have been, as we know they were, 
exceedingly favorable for displaying the powers of a great tragic actor. 

Thomas Nash and Robert Greene, both Cambridge men, both 
sharp, and, I fear, mercenary satirists, and both alike in the profligacy 
of their lives and the misery of their deaths, though they may have 
eked out their income by occasionally writing for the stage, were in 
reality rather pasquinaders and pamphleteers than dramatists — con- 
dottieri of the press, shamelessly advertising the services of their ready 
and biting pen to any person or any cause that would pay them. They 
were both unquestionably men of rare powers ; Nash probably the bet- 
ter man and the abler writer of the two. Nash is famous for the bitter 
controversy he maintained with the learned Gabriel Harvey, whom he 
has caricatured and attacked in numerous pamphlets, in a manner 
equally humorous and severe. He was concerned with other drama- 
tists ~ in the production of a piece entitled Summers Last Will and 
Testament, and in a satirical comedy. The Isle of Dogs, which drew 
down upon him the anger of the Government, for we know that he 
was imprisoned for some time in consequence. 

Greene was, like Nash, the author of a multitude of tracts and 
pamphlets on the most miscellaneous subjects. Sometimes they were 
tales, often translated or expanded from the Italian novelists ; some- 
times amusing exposures of the various arts of cony-catching, i. e. 
cheating and swindling, practised at that time in London, and in which, 
it is to be feared, Greene was personally not unver-^ed ; sometimes 
moral confessions, like Nash's Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the 


Devil, or Greene's Groatsroorth of Wit, purporting to be a warning to 
others against the consequences of unbridled passions. Some ot these 
confessions are exceedingly pathetic, and would be more so could the 
reader divest himself of a lurking suspicion that the whole is often a 
mere trick to catch a penn3^ The popularity of these tracts, we know, 
was very great. The only dramatic work we need specify of Greene's 
was George-a-Green, the legend of an old English popular hero, 
recounted with much occasional vivacity and humor. 

Thomas Lodge (1556-1625.?) is described by Mr. Collier as " second 
to Kyd in vigor and boldness of conception ; but as a drawer of char- 
acter, so essential a part of dramatic poetry, he unquestionably has the 
advantage." His principal work is a tragedy entitled The Hotttids of 
Civil War, lively set fort k in the Tivo Tragedies of Marius ajid Sylla 
(1594). He also composed, in conjunction with Greene, A Looking- 
Glassfor Lojtdon and England, the object of which is a defence of the 
^ stage against the Puritanical partj'. (See also p. 86.) 
^ § 10. But by far the most powerful genius among the dramatic poets 
who immediatel}"^ preceded Shakspeare was Christopher Marlowe 
(1563 .''-1 593). This man, if destiny had granted to him a longer life, 
which might have enabled him to correct the luxuriance of an ardent 
temperament and an unregulated imagination, might have left works 
that would have placed him very high among the foremost poets of his 
age. As it is, his remains strike us with as much regret as admiration 
— regret that such rare powers should have been so irregularly .culti- 
vated. Marlowe was born at Canterbury in 1563, and was educated 
at Cambridge. On leaving the University he joined a troop of actors, 
and is recorded to have bi-oken his leg upon the stage. His mode of 
life was remarkable for vice and debauchery, even in a profession so 
little scrupulous ; and he was strongly suspected by his contemporaries 
bf having been little better than an Atheist. His career was as short 
as it was disgraceful : he was stabbed in the head with his own dagger, 
which he had drawn in a disreputable scuffle with a disreputable antag- 
onist, in a disreputable place : and he died of this wound at the age of 
thirty. His works are not numerous, but they are strongly distinguished 
from those of preceding and contemporary dramatists by an air of 
astonishing power, energy, and elevation — an elevation, it is true, 
which is sometimes exaggerated into bombast, and an energy which 
occasionally degenerates into extravagance. His first work was the 
tragedy of Tamburlaine, and the rants of the declamation in this piece 
furnished rich materials for satire and caricature ; but in spite of this 
bombast the piece contains many passages of great power and beauty. 
Marlowe's best work is incontestably the drama of Faustus, founded 
upon the very same popular legend which Goethe adopted as the 
groundwork of his tragedy; but the point of view taken by ISIarlowe 
is far simpler than that of Goethe ; and the English poem contains no 
trace of the profound self-questioning of the German hero, of the 
extraordinary creation of Mephistopheles, nor anything like the 
pathetic episode of Margaret. The witch element, w^hich reigns so 

A. D. 1563-1593-] MARLOWE. '127 

wildly and picturesquely in the German poem, is here entirely absent 
But, on the other hand, there is certainly no passage in the tragedy of 
Goethe in which terror, despair, and remorse are painted with such a 
powerful hand, as the great closing scene of Marlowe's piece, when 
Faustus, after the twenty-four years of sensual pleasure which were 
stipulated in his pact with the Evil One, is waiting for the inevitable 
arrival of the Fiend to claim his bargain. This is truly dramatic, and 
is assuredly one of the most impressive scenes that ever were placed 
upon the stage. The tragedy of the J^etv of Malta, though inferior to 
Faustus, is characterized by similar merits and defects. The hero, 
Barabbas, is the type of the Jew as he appeared to the rude and bigoted 
imaginations of the fifteenth century — a monster half terrific, half 
ridiculous, impossibly rich, inconceivably bloodthirsty, cunning, and 
revengeful, the bugbear of an age of ignorance and persecution. 
Though the exploits of cruelty and retaliation upon his Christian 
oppressors make Barabbas a fantastic personage, the intense expres- 
sion of his rage, his triumph, and his despair, give occasion for many 
noble bursts of Marlowe's powerful declamation. The tragedy of 
Edxvard II., which was the last of this great poet's works, shows that 
in some departments of his art, and particularly in that of moving ter- 
ror and pity, he might, had he lived, have become no insignificant 
rival of Shakspeare himself. The scene of the assassination of the 
unhappy king is worked up to a verj^ lofty pitch of tragic pathos. 
Charles Lamb observes that " the reluctant pangs of abdicating roy- 
alty in Edward furnished hints which Shakspeare scarce improved in 
his Richard II. ; and the death-scene of Marlowe's king moves pity 
and terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern, with which I am 
acquainted." Marlowe was the morning star that heralded the rising 
of the great dramatic Sun. 

§ 11. I pass over the names of a number of comparatively insignifi- 
cant authors who appeared about this time, whose dramatic works have 
not yet been collected and printed. They in some instances, according 
to the custom of that age, either composed plays in partnership, or 
revised and altered plays written before, so that it is exceedingly difli- 
cult to assign to each playwright his just share of merit. There are, 
however, two or three pieces which have corhe down to us, either anony- 
mous, or at least attributed to so many difterent authors, that it is now 
impossible to father them with pi-ecision. Some of these pieces are of 
great merit, and others are curious as being examples of the practice 
which afterwards became general in our theatre, of dramatizing either 
episodes from the chronicle history of our own or other countries (of 
which class we may cite the old Hamlet, The Famous Victories, and King 
Johii), or remarkable crimes — causes cH^bres — which had attracted 
the public attention by their unusual atrocity or the romantic nature 
of their details. Good examples of these are Ardcn of Fever sham, and 
The Yorkshire Tragedy, both founded on fact, both works of no mean 
merit, and both attributed, though without any probability, to the pen 
of Shakspeare. 



SHAKSPEARE. A. D. 1564-1616. 

J 1. Parentage and education of Shakspeare. § 2, His early life and marriage; 
§ 3. He comes to London, joins the Globe Theatre, and turns author. ^ 4. Com« 
pany of the Globe Theatre. ^ 5, Shakspeare's career at the Globe. His act 
ing. ^ 6. Continuation of his life. His success and prudence. Returns to 
Stratford. ^ His death. § 7. Classification of his Dramas into History and 
Fiction. Sources of the Dramas. § 8. His treatment of the Historical Dra- 
mas. § 9. His treatment of the Dramas founded upon Fiction. § 10, Hia 
Venus and Adonis, Rape of Lucrece, and Sonnets. 

§ 1. William Shakspeare was born on the 23d of April, 1564, in 
the small county town of Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, and was 
baptized on the 26th of the same month. His father, John Shakspeare, 
respecting whose trade and position in life much controversy has been 
raised, was, in all probability, a fellmonger and wool-dealer, to which 
commerce he appears to have added that of glover or manufacturer of 
the many articles of dress that were then made of leather. He unques- 
tionably belonged to the burgher or shopkeeper class ; but had married 
an heiress of ancient and even knightly descent, Isabella Arden or 
Arderne, the scion of a family which had figured in the courtly and 
warlike annals of preceding reigns; and thus in the veins of the great 
poet of humanity ran blood derived from both the aristocratic and 
popular portions of the community. Isabella Arderne had brought her 
husband in dowry a small freehold propei^ty; but this acquisition, 
though apparently advantageous, seems to have been vdtimately the 
cause of misfortune to the family; for John Shakspeare, who had ori- 
ginally been a thriving and prosperous tradesman, gradually descended, 
during the boyhood and youth of his illustrious son, to a condition of 
comparative indigence. This is to be attributed, as far as may be 
guessed, to his acquisition of land having tempted him to engage, with- 
out experience, in agricultural pursvjits, which ended disastrously in his 
being obliged at difterent times to mortgage and sell not only his farm, 
but even one of the houses in Stratford of which he had been owner. 
He at last retained nothing but that small, but now venerable dwelling, 
consecrated to all future ages by being the spot where the greatest of 
poets first saw the light, and which will ever be carefully preserved as 
the shrine of England's greatest glory. That John Shakspeare had 
been originally in flourishing circumstances is amply proved by his 
having long been one of the Aldermen of Stratford, and having served 
the office of Bailift' or Mayor in 1568. His distresses appear to have 
become severe in 1579, when he was excused by his brethren of the 
municipality from contributing a small sum at a time of public calam- 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SHAKSPEARE. 129 

ity, an exemption grounded, probably, on his poverty. He also, most 
likely from the same cause, was obliged to resign his post of Alder- 
man ; and seems at the end of his life to have been entirely dependent 
upon the assistance of his son, when the latter, as he speedily did, 
raised himself to a position of competence, and even of affluence. 

These details will not be regarded as trivial by any one who will 
reflect how closely connected they are with the important and much- 
agitated question of the kind and degree of education enjoyed by Wil- 
liam Shakspeare — a question of the very deepest iiftport in fixing our 
estimate of his works and our appreciation of his genius. That he 
could have derived even the most elementary instruction from his 
parents is impossible; for we know that neither John nor Isabella Shak- 
speare could write — an accomplishment, however, which, it should be 
remarked, was comparatively rare in Elizabeth's reign, in even a higher 
class of society than the one to which such persons belonged. Fat we 
are not to conclude from this, as is done by those who think to elevate 
the genius of the great poet by denying him all the advantages of 
regular instruction, that the poverty and ignorance of his parents 
necessarily deprived him of education. There existed at that time, and 
there exists at the present day, in the borough of Stratford, one of those 
endowed " free grammar-schools" of which so many countr^^ towns in 
England ofler examples, where the pious charity of past ages has pro- 
vided for the gratuitous edvication of posterity. In these establishments 
provision is always made for the children of the burgesses of the town ; 
and to the old grammar-school in Stratford, founded in the reign of 
Edward IV., it is quite certain that John Shakspeare had the right, as 
Alderman and Past Bailiff" of the town, of sending his son without ex- 
pense. It is inconceivable that he should have neglected to avail him- 
self of so useful a privilege : and that William enjoyed at all events the 
advantage of such elementary instruction as was offered by the gram- 
mar-schools of those days, is rendered more than probable, not only 
by the extensive though irregular reading of which his woi'ks give 
evidence, but by one among the vague traditions which have descended 
to us. This legend relates that the poet had been " in his youth a 
schoolmaster in the country," a fact which cannot, of course, be strictly 
true, as we know at what an early age he left his native town to enter 
upon his career of actor and author in the Globe Theatre in London. 
It may, however, be the misrepresentation of fact, namely, that after 
passing through the lower classes of Stratford Grammar-School he 
may have been employed, as a lad of his aptitude would not improba- 
bly have been, in assisting the master in instructing the junior pupils. 

§ 2. Among the various legends connected with the early life of so 
great a man, and which posterity, in the singular absence of more 
trustworthy details, swallows with greediness, the most celebrated and 
romantic is that which represents his youth as irregular and even 
profligate, and in particular recounts his deer-stealing expedition, in 
company with other riotous young fellows, to Sir Thomas Lucy's park 
at Charlcote, near Stratford. The young poacher, who had " broken 


the park, stolen the deer, and kissed the keeper's daughter," is said to 
ha%'e been seized, brought before the indignant Justice of the Fence, and 
treated with so much severity by Sir Thomas, that he revenged himself 
on the rural magnate by affixing a doggerel pasquinade to the gates of 
Charlcote. The wrath of the magistrate is said to have blazed so high 
at this additional insolence that Shakspeare was obliged to withdraw 
himself from more serious persecution by escaping to London. Here, 
continues the legend, which is so circumstantial and picturesque that 
we cannot but regret its total want of proof and probability, the young 
poet arrived in such deep poverty, as to be for some time reduced to 
earn a livelihood by holding horses at the doors of the theatres, where 
'•his pleasant wit" attracting the notice of the actors, he ultimately 
obtained access " behind the scenes," and by degrees became a cele- 
brated actor and valuable dramatic author. Eager as we are for every 
scrap of personal information which can help to realize so great a man 
as Shakspeare, we are naturally reluctant to renounce our belief in so 
striking a story ; but, though the deer-stealing story may very possibly 
be not altogether devoid of foundation, the romantic incidents connect- 
ed with his leaving Stratford and embracing the theatrical career, are 
to be explained in a different and much less improbable manner. It is 
quite certain that he left his native town in 15S6, at the age of twenty-two ; 
and it is quite possible that the distressed situation in which his parents 
then were, and, what is no less likeh', the imprudence and irregularity 
of his own youthful conduct, may have contributed to render a longei 
stay in Stratford disagreeable, if not impossible. One event, which had 
occurred about four years, before, most probably contributed more 
powerfully to send him forth *' to seek his fortune," than the ire of Sir 
Thomas Lucy, or the perhaps not very enviable reputation which his 
boyish escapades had probably acquired among the steady burgesses 
of the little town, who probably shook their heads at the young scape- 
grace, prophesying that he would never come to any good. This event 
was his marriage, contracted when he was only eighteen, in 1582, v^'ith 
Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a small farmer, little above the rank of a 
laboring man, who resided at the hamlet of Shotterv, about two miles 
from Stratford. Anne Hathaway was seven years and a half older than 
her boy-husband ; and the marriage appears to have been pressed on 
with eager haste, probably by the relatives of the bride, who may have 
forced young Shakspeare to heal a breach which he had made in the 
young woman's reputation. There is still in existence the undertaking, 
legally signed by the parties, giving Shakspeare, then a minor, the 
power of contracting marriage. The whole of this important episode 
in the poet's life bears strong trace of a not over reputable family mys- 
terv. The fruit of this union was first a daughter Susanna, the poet's 
favorite child, born in 1583. and in the following j^ear twins, Judith and 
Ilamnet. The latter, the poet's only son, died at twelve years of age ; his 
two '^'aughters survived him. After these he had no more children ; and 
there are several facts which seem to point, significantly though ob- 
scurely, to the conclusion that the married life .of the, poet was not 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SUAKSPEARE. 13\ 

marked bj that love and confidence which is the usual result of well- 
considered and well-assorted unions. Thus, though Shakspeare passed 
the most active portion of his life, from 15S6 to 161 1, almost constantly' 
in London, there is evidence to show that his wife, during the whole of 
that long period, never resided with her husband, but with his parents 
in Stratford ; and therefore could only have seen him on the occasions, 
probably pretty frequent, of his flying visits to his native place. In the 
great poet's Will, too, which invaluable document gives us so many 
details concerning his private life, Mrs. Shakspeare appears to be 
treated in a manner very different from that which a beloved and re- 
spected wife might have expected from so generous and gentle a charac- 
ter as William Shakspeare's unquestionably was. To his wife the 
poet leaves only " his second-best bed, with the hangings," a very 
slighting and inconsiderable legacy when we reflect that he died com- 
paratively rich.* 

Concerning the boj^hood and youth of the great painter of nature 
and of man we know little or nothing. It is more than probable that 
his education was neglected, his passions strong, and his conduct far 
from regular : yet we may in some sort rejoice at the destiny which 
allowed him to draw his earliest impressions of nature from the calm 
and graceful scenery of Warwickshire, and placed him in a situation to 
study the passions and characters of men among the unsophisticated 
inhabitants of a small provincial town. Perhaps, too, the very imper- 
fection of his intellectual training was an advantage to his genius, in 
allowing his gigantic powers to develop themselves, untrammelled by 
the bonds of regular education. It is not improbable that atone period 
of his youth he had been placed in the office of some country practitioner 
of the law : in all his works he shows an extraordinary knowledge of the 
technical language of that profession, and frequently draws his illustra- 
tions from its vocabulary. Besides, such terms as he employs he 
almost always employs correctly; which would hardly be possible but 
to one who had been professionally versed in them : add to which in 
one of the few ill-natured and satirical allusions made to Shakspeare by 
his conteiuporary rivals, there is a distinct indication of the poet's hav- 
ing in his youth exercised " the trade of Noverint," that is, the occupa- 
tion of a lawyer's clerk, this word being the usual commencement ot 
writs — " noverint universi." 

§ 3. At the age of twenty-two, therefore, Shakspeare,now the father o. 
three children, in all probability not enjoying in his native place a very 
enviable reputation, without means of support, his father having at this 
time descended to a very low ebb of worldly fortunes, for we know that 
at this period, 1586, he was obliged to retire altogether from the 
municipal council, determined upon the great step of leaving Stratford 
altogether, and embarking on the wide ocean of London theatrical life. 
The story of his being reduced to hold horses at the doors of theatres is 

* On the other hand, it should be recollected that, as Shakspeare's property 
was chiefly freehold, his wife was entitled to dower. 


too absurd to deserve a moment's consideration. In the first place it is 
established by a thousand passages and allusions in the dramatic com- 
positions of that day, that the audiences universally visited the theatres 
either on foot or in boats, for which facility these establishments were 
built upon the banks of the Thames, then a much more convenient 
highway than the narrow and tortuous streets of London of the six- 
teenth century. Consequently there could be no horses to hold. 
Secondly, it is not conceivable that a young man endowed with such 
talents as Shakspeare, talents of which he had most certainly given 
evidence in his early poems, many of them probably written before this 
time, should have found the least difficulty in entering a profession so 
easy of access as the theatre then was. The companies of actors were 
always glad to enlist among them such men of ready genius as could 
render themselves useful as performers and dramatists ; and this com- 
bined occupation Shakspeare, like Ben Jonson, Marlowe, and many 
others of his contemporaries, fulfilled with an aptitude of Avhich the 
proofs are evident. Besides, theatrical performances had before this 
time been popular in Warwickshire. Various companies had visited 
Stratford in thei^* summer peregrinations, SLsd had performed for the 
amusement of the corporation. The greatest tragic actor of that day, 
Richard Burbage, was a Warwickshire man, and Thomas Greene, a 
distinguished member of the troop of the Globe, then the first theatre 
in London, was a native of Stratford, and is by many supposed to have 
been even a relation of Shakspeare. Nothing, therefore, is more prob- 
able than that the young adventurer, whose talents could not have been 
unknown, received an invitation to throw in his lot with the company 
of the Globe. It is certain that he joined that undertaking; for we find 
him in 15S9, that is, only three j'^ears after his arrival in London, en- 
rolled among the shareholders of the above theatre, his name being the 
eleventh in a list of fifteen. It will be remembered, as I have indicated in 
a preceding chapter, that the number of shareholders in the Elizabethan 
theatrical companies was generally small, and that the profits of the 
representation were divided among them ; the additional actors neces- 
sary for the performance being *' hired men," receiving a fixed salary, 
and having no claim upon the general profits of the undertaking. Like 
other young men of that time, he rendered himself useful to his com- 
pany in the double capacity o^ actor and arranger of ^pieces : and there 
is no reason to suppose that his professional career differed from that 
of Marlowe, Jonson, Fletcher, Ford, and others, in any respect save in 
the industry and success with which he pursued his double calling, and 
the prudence with which he accumulated the pecuniary results of that 
activity. He began, in all probability, by adapting old plays to the 
exigencies of his theatre, and while engaged in this humble employment 
acquired that consummate knowledge of stage effect which distinguished 
him., and which first struck out the spark of that inimitable dramatic 
genius which places him above all other poets in the world. His con- 
nection with the theatre continued from 1586 to his retirement in 161 1, 
a period of twenty-five j'ears, embracing the splendor of his youth and 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SlIAKSPEARE. 133 

the vigor of his manhood. It is between these dates that were produced 
the thirty-seven dramas which compose his best-known works. 

It would evidently be no less curious than useful could we establish, 
with some degree of accuracy, the dates and sequence of these thirty- 
seven plays : such an investigation would furnish us with inestimable 
materials for tracing the intellectual and artistic development of the 
greatest of all dramatists ; but though many such attempts have been 
made, some of them with extraordinary acuteness and erudition, none 
of them have resulted even in an approach to a satisfactory chronology 
of Shakspeare's dramatic histor3^ The notices of the first performance 
of some of these wonderful works, the minute examination of possible 
historical allusions contained in them, the order of their sequence in 
the first complete edition of the plays, which was not given to the 
world till 1623, that is, seven years after the poet's death, all these 
apparently promising materials for establishing a sound theory of their 
order of composition, will be found on trial not to be relied on. Inter- 
nal evidence founded upon shades of style and a higher or lower degree 
of artistic perfection in treatment, is a test of a still more tempting but 
even more visionary nature; and from the employment of all these 
methods combined we may indeed sometimes class the plays of Shak- 
speare into certain great but not very accurately marked periods, but 
we can never hope to attain anything like an exact chronological order. 
This is of course to be deeply regretted, but cannot be an object of sur- 
prise; for during the whole of his literary career our great dramatic 
master-workman, in all likelihood, continued to adapt and arrange old 
plays as well as to compose original pieces ; and working for bread, and 
probably with great rapidity, he was not scrupulous as to how far the 
inferior composition of an earlier and ruder poet passed for his own 
production. This consideration will also explain the extraordinary 
difference in point of merit, literary as well as theatrical, which even 
the least critical reader maj' discern in his performances, some of them, 
as Othello for example, being specimens of the most consummate per- 
fection both in style and construction, while others, as Titus A?idroni- 
cus, Pericles^ and parts oi Henry VI., are not only markedly inferior to 
his other compositions, but are unworthy of a dramatist even of the 
humblest pretensions. O^P 

§ 4. The Company of the Globe Theatre, to which Shakspeare / 
remained attached as an actor and shareholder during the whole of his 
London career, was, as I have said, the richest and most prosperous 
of the numerous troops that then furnished amusement to the capital. 
Their principal place of representation was the playhouse which gave 
them their name, so called from its sign bearing the effigy of Atlas 
supporting the globe, with the motto " Totus Mundus agit Histrionem,'' 
and was situated on the Bankside in Southwark near the Surrey ex- 
tremity of London Bridge. Most of the theatres of that day were 
placed on the river's bank in the southern suburb of the capital, partly, 
no doubt, for the convenience of access by water, but mainly to place 
them out Af the jurisdiction of the Corporation of London, which, being 

1 84 SUA K^PKARE. [Chap^ VII. 

at that time deeply infected with Puritan doctrines, used all its efforts 
to discountenance and crush the players. The enmity between the 
"witty vagabonds" of the theatre and the fanatic Aldermen was 
envenomed by incessant jokes and pasquinades on the part of the for- 
mer, and by constant persecution from the latter: and on the ultimate 
triumph of the Puritans at the outbreak of the Civil War, the vindic- 
tive bigotry of the city succeeded in completely annihilating the theatre. 
The Globe company was undoubtedly the most respectable as well as 
the most prosperous of the then theatres, and partly by prudently 
avoiding to give offence by political allusions, and partly by securing 
powerful protection at Court, as for instance that of Lord Keeper 
Egerton and the accomplished Earl of Southampton, the liberal patron 
and personal friend of Shakspeare himself, this society obtained the 
unusual permission of opening, as a theatre, a private house altered 
for the purpose, in the forbidden precincts of London itself. This was 
the Blackfriars plaj'house, situated nearly on the exact spot now occ 
pied by the printing-house of the Times newspaper. This edifice, 
much smaller than the Globe, was entirely roofed over, and the com- 
pany were in the habit of performing here in the winter, whereas dur- 
ing the summer their representations were given on the Bankside, the 
inclemency of the weather being then less inconvenient. 

§ 5. Guided by the faint and feeble lights of tradition and occasional 
obscure allusions in the writings of the day, we may trace Shakspeare's 
professional and literary career from his joining the Globe company in 
1589 till his retirement from active life in 161 1. That career appears to 
have been a highly successful one. During the first years he probably 
rendered himself useful to his theatr^ as an actor; and here arises the 
question of the degree of talent he displayed in this branch of his pro- 
fession ; some maintaining him to have been a tragic and comic per- 
former of the first class, while others accord him only a very moderate 
amount of talent. That he was better acquainted than perhaps any 
man has ever been with the theoretic principles of the actor's art is 
unquestionable from many passages in his writings ; it will suffice to 
allude to the inimitable " directions to the players" put into the mouth 
of Hamlet, which, in incredibly few words, contain the whole system 
of the art. But in all probability the truth, as far as regards his own 
personal proficiency as a performer, lies between the two extremes. 
From some clear and other obscure indications, we may guess at cer- 
tain parts which he acted in his own dramas as in those of other poets. 
Thus we have good authority for supposing that he acted the Ghost in 
his tragedy of Hamlet ; the secondary, but graceful and touching char- 
acter of Adam, the faithful old servant, in his As Tou Like It ; the 
passionate and deeply pathetic impersonation of grief and despair 
in Kyd's popular tragedy of Hiero7iymo ; and the sensible citizen. Old 
Knowell, in Ben Jonson's Every Man In His Humor. Such parts, it is 
evident, would never have been intrusted, in a company so rich in 
talent as was that of the Globe, to an incompetent actor : at the same 
time they all belong to a particular and perhaps secondary type, from 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SHAKSPEARE. 135 

■which we may conclude that Shakspeare's line or einplot, as it is now 
called in the technical jargon of the English and French stages, v/as 
that of the old men — the pcrcs nobles. It is probable, however, that 
he soon abandoned the practice of appearing, except perhaps occa- 
sionalh^ on the stage, and found that his services as an adapter and 
arranger of plays, and then as an original author, were more valuable 
to his troop than his exertions as an actor. Burbage, we know, was 
the original and most popular performer of his comrade's great tragic 
creations, Richard III., Hamlet, Othello, and the like. 

§ 6. Shakspeare's first original poems were not dramatic; he must 
be regarded as the creator of a peculiar species of narrative composi- 
tion which was destined to achieve an immediate and immense popu- 
larity. Venus and Adonis, which, in his dedication to Lord Southamp- 
ton, he calls " the first heir of his invention," was published in 1593. 
It is highly pi'obable that this poem — exhibiting all the luxuriant 
sweetness, the voluptuous tenderness, of a youthful genius — was con- 
ceived, if not composed, at Stratford. The Raj>e of Lticrece, a some- 
what similar but inferior work, written, like its companion, in a species 
of Italian stanza, enjoyed a great but inferior popularity. The former 
"of these works was reissued in five several editions between the years 
1593 and 1602; while the JLucrcce, during nearly the same lapse of 
time, appeared in thi-ee. The first years of Shakspeare's theatrical life 
were probablj- devoted to mere arrangement and adaptation of old 
plays ; and the traces of his pen might perhaps be found in an immense 
number of works of earlier dramatists — Kyd, Marlowe, Lyly, &c. 
Even among his published and collected works, several — as Pericles, 
Titus Andronicus, Henry VI., perhaps much oi Heyiry VIII. — seem 
to be examples of this ; and though difficult, it would not be impossi- 
ble to track his genius here and there through the rude and undigested 
chaos of the older playwright, vivifying some stroke of passion or 
character, or interspersing one of those inimitable touches of descrip- 
tion and reflection which glow and sparkle like gems amid the rubbish 
of the original piece. At what period he began to be fully conscious 
cf his own vast powers, and abandoned such adaptation for original dra- 
matic composition, it is quite impossible to ascertain; for some of those 
immortal works which bear the strongest and deepest impress of his 
wondrous genius were undoubtedly based upon former productions by 
former hands, and had undergone repeated recastings and alterations 
by himself and others. As examples of this I may mention^ Hamlet, 
He?iry V., and King John. Shakspeare must have speedily risen to 
so much importance in the Globe company as sufficed to call down 
upon him the attacks of envious or disappointed rivals; for the learned 
and witty but disreputable Nash makes bitter allusions unmistakably 
pointing at Shakspeare's name and alleged want of learning, as well 
as at his activity in " bolstering out a blank verse," and producing 
"whole Hamlets, or handfuls, of tragical speeches." He is "Johannes 
Factotum," and on the strength of a few blustering commonplaces 
fancies himself " the only Shakescene [Shakspeare] in a country." 


That he gradually and steadily rose in importance among his "fellows" 
is proved by his name, which in 1589 was eleventh in a list of fifteen 
shareholders, being found seven years afterwards fifth in a list of eight; 
ana again in the license renewed to the company on the accession of 
James I., Shakspeare stands second. In the scurrilous pamphlet enti- 
tled Greene's Groatstvorth of Wit^ published by Chettle after the death 
of that unhappy but clever profligate, there was a libellous attack upon 
Shakspeare, evidently dictated by the envy of a disappointed rival: but 
for this unfounded calumny Chettle was speedily obliged to apologize 
in the fullest manner, and in terms which bear high testimony not only 
to the great poet's genius as a writer, but to his respectability as a man, 
and to his amiable, gentle, and generous disposition — a quality which 
all contemporary notices conspire in attributing to our bard. 

But it is not only from the effusions of spite and literary jealousy 
that we can gain some feeble insight into Shakspeare's personal his- 
cory. It is quite certain that the accomplished Pembroke and the 
generous Southampton were his admirers and patrons. The former, 
indeed, is related to have made the poet a present of icxx)/. — an im- 
mense sum, if we take into consideration the far higher value of money 
in those days ; but though this princely gift was in all probability not a 
personal gratuity to Shakspeare, but rather a generous contribution to 
the support of the drama as represented by Shakspeare's company, anc> 
designed to assist them in building a new theatre, the action, neverthe- 
less, shows the high respect which the poet had inspired. That Shak- 
speare, in his business relations with the theatre and the public, exhibited 
great good sense, prudence, and knowledge of the world, seems proved 
by the skill with which the actors of the Globe managed to steer clear 
of the various dangers arising from the puritanic opposition of the 
London Corporation, and the still more serious perils incurred by 
offending, in political or satirical allusions, the susceptibility of thr 
Court and the Censorship, then so severe that almost all the other com- 
panies of players suffered more or less for their imprudences, some in 
the forcible closing of their theatres, some in the imprisonment of their 
autliors and performers. That the singular good fortune of the Globe 
company in this respect was in no small degree attributable to Shak- 
speare's prudence, or to the powerful patronage he had secured among 
the great, is rendered probable by the fact that no sooner had he retired 
from an active interference in the concerns of the theatre than repeated 
causes of complaint arose from the petulance of his comrades, and were 
punished with considerable severity. Shakspeare's worldly prosperity 
seems to have gone on steadily increasing, and he appears to have careful- 
ly invested his gains ; for in 1597, M'hen he was aged thirty-three, he pur- 
chased the landed estate of New Place in Stratford, and either built en- 
tirely or partially reconstructed a house long considered fhe most con- 
siderable in the town, and to which he determined to retire as soon as the 
state of his fortune would permit, to pass the evening of his life far from 
the turmoils of the stage, in the competency he had so wisely earned. 
During the whole of his London life he no doubt made frequent visits 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SHAKSPEARE. 137 

to his native place, keeping up & lively interest in the public and private 
affairs of his tov^^nsmen. He was able to afford a tranquil asjlum to his 
parents, who appear to have closed their lives under the protection of 
his roof. The death of his only son, Hamnet, in 1596, when the boy wag 
in his twelfth year, must have been a severe shock to so loving a heart; 
but in general his life seems to have been one of continued prosperity. In 
1602 he purchased one hundred and seven acres of land, and most prob- 
ably engaged in farming speculations, with the assistance of his brother 
Gilbert. Two years after this we get a curious insight into his private 
life, by finding him the plaintiff in an action for the delivery of a cer- 
tain quantity of malt, in which affair the justice of the case seems to 
have been entirely oh his side. About the same time he purchased a 
share in the tithes of Stratford, as a means of securing a safe revenue ; 
and there is extant an interesting note in which some of his townsmen 
employed him, as a man resident in London and well versed in business, 
to obtain a favorable hearing from the legal authorities in a matter con- 
cerning the enclosure of some lands near Stratford. In 1607 (the poet 
now aged forty-three) his favorite daughter Susanna married Dr. Hall, 
and in the following year she brought into the world a granddaughter 
to the dramatist. Both at the marriage and at the christening it is highly 
probable that Shakspeare visited Stratford. He certainly was godfather, 
at the latter period, to William Walker, the child of one of his friends 
and fellow-townsmen. In 1611, the poet, having disposed of most of 
his interest in the Globe, finally retired to New Place, where he lived 
with his daughter Mrs. Hall and her husband, who enjoyed a consider- 
able provincial reputation for medical skill, and who most probably 
treated his illustrious father-in-law in his last illness. Shakspeare did 
not long enjoy the retirement which he had labored for so long. He 
died, after a short illness, on the 23d April, the anniversary of his 
birthday, in 1616, having exactly completed his fifty-second year. A 
short time before his death his second daughter, Judith, was married to 
Thomas Qj.iiney ; but her career in life appears to have been altogether 
humbler than her sister's. Respecting the details of Shakspeare's last 
illness and decease we have no information. Dr. Hall indeed has left 
us a curious record of some of the most remarkable cases occurring in 
his practice, but unluckily his notes exhibit a void for the years before 
and after this precise period. There exists indeed a tradition that the 
great poet had been suffering from fever, when, desiring to entertain 
with his usual hospitality Ben Jonson and Drayton, who had come 
down from London to visit him, he imprudently arose from his bed, 
and brought on a relapse by sharing too freely in conviviality. He was 
buried in the parish church of Stratford, the registers of which furnish 
the greater part of the meagre though trustworthy information we 
possess concerning the family vicissitudes of the Shakspeares. Over 
his grave is erected a mural monument in the Italianized taste of that 
day, which is chiefly remarkable as containing a bust of the poet — an 
authentic though not very well executed portrait. Indeed the like- 
nesses of Shakspeare, whether sculptured, painted, or engraved, are 


nelthei v^l/ numerous nor altogether to be relied on. The bust just 
mentioned, and thecoaije engraving bjDroeshout, prefixed to the first 
folio edition of his works in 1623, appear to have the best claims to our 
confidence. Ihe latter, in particular, is vouched for as a faithful re- 
semblance in the eulogistic verses placed under it bj Ben Jonson, w^ho 
knew^ intimately his ijreat contemporary, and was not a man to assert 
what he did not think. 

The tomb and the birthplace of Shakspeare will ever be sacred spots 

— shrines of loving pilgrimage for all the nations of the earth. The 
house of New Place has long been destroyed, but the garden in which 
it stood, as well as the house where the poet was born, will be preserved 
to the latest ages by the piety of his countrymen and the veneration of 
the civilized world. A short time before his death Shakspeare made 
his will ; and thus we have, singularly enough, a very exact account of 
the nature and extent of his property at the time of his decease. In the 
mode of its disposal we see evident traces of that kind and affectionate 
disposition which every proof seems to establish as having characterized 
him — a careful remembrance of his old comrades and " fellows," to 
each of whom he leaves some token of regard, generally a ring. This 
document is unspeakably precious to us on another ground, viz. from 
its containing his signature twice repeated. These and one or two 
more autographs, consisting likewise of nothing more than the signa- 
ture, are literally the only specimens that have been preserved of the 
writing of that immortal hand. V ,, 

§ 7. It is with the most unfeigned diffidence — diffidence arising from 
a veneration which no words can express — that I approach the difficult 
but delightful task of examining the writings of Shakspeare. From 
the number, no less than the excellence, of the dramatic portion of 
these works, it will be absolutely necessary to employ some method 
of classifying them into groups. This would possess the advantage 
of conciseness in the treatment, as W2II as of assisting the memory of 
the student. The most valuable principle of classification would be one 
based upon the chronological order of production, because such a 
method would give us a chart of the intellectual and artistic develop- 
ment of Shakspeare's mind, enabling us to trace the course of that ma- 
estic river from its first sparkling but irregular sources to the full flow 
of its calm and mightj^ current : but this mode, as has already been 
pointed out, though it has exercised the ingenuity and research of many 
laborious and acute investigators, has furnished no results which can 
be depended upon ■■ — a fact evidenced by the extreme discrepancy 
among the various sj^stems of chronological arrangement which have 
hitherto been given to the world. Upon the order of the pieces as givea 
in the first folio edition, published in 1623 by Hemings and Condell, 
Shakspeare's friends and " fellows," it is evident no reliance can be 
placed. Independently of the many contradictions and impossibilities 
involved in the adoption of their order as the true order of composition 

— impossibilities which are obvious on a superficial examination — the 
extreme negligence of the printing of that edition, in evincing a total 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SHAKSPEARE. 13^ 

absence of care in the editing and correction of the press, leads us 
inevitably to the conclusion that, in spite of the assurances of the editors 
as to its having been based upon the "papers" of their immortal col- 
league, the publication must be regarded as, little better than a hasty 
speculation, carelessly entered into for the purpose of snatching a 
momentary and not very honorable profit, without much regard to t^ 
literary reputation of the great poet. (J/^ 

Another mode of classifying Shakspeare's dramas is founded on the 
principle of ranging them respectively under the heads of Tragedies, 
Comedies, and Histories or Historical Plays, without attempting to 
enter into the question of the order of their production ; and this 
sj'stem has at all events the advantage of clearness, as well as that of 
dividing them into manageable groups, easily retained in the memory. 
This is the principle upon which are based most of the editions of the 
dramas. But this method is in some measure open to objection. 
Though some of the pieces (such as Othello. Lear, Hatnlet) are dis- 
tinctly tragedies, in the ordinary sense of that word, — a sense common 
to the critical nomenclature both of the Classical and Romantic types of 
the drama, — and though others (as As Tou Like It, the Merry Wives 
of Windsor, the Taming of the Shrew, or Twelfth Night) are as 
evidently comedies, there exists a considerable number of the plays 
which, from their tone and incidents, might be ranged equally under 
both heads. Nay, in all the pieces of Shakspeare we find such a mix- 
ture of the tragic and comic elements as would withdraw them equally 
from the strongly marked boundaries appropriated, as in the French 
theatre for instance, respectively to Tragedy and Comedy ; and where 
Thalia and Melpomene are never permitted to intrude upon each other's 
domains. Indeed, as has been said some pages back, it is precisely 
this mixture of tragedy and comedy in the same piece, the same char- 
acter, the same scene, and in even the same phrase, which constitutes 
the peculiar distinguishing trait of the noble romantic drama of Eng- 
land in the Shakspearian Age ; and not only its distinguishing trait, 
but also, in the opinion of the English reader, as well as of the most 
profound art-critics of Germany, its peculiar excellence and title of 
superiority, as a picture of life and nature, over the national drama of 
every other country. 

There remains a third mode of classification, which we may adopt as 
not devoid either of convenience or of philosophic truth ; and this is 
based upon the sources from which Shakspeare drew the materials for 
his dramatic creations. If we follow the classification according to the 
three heads we have just been alluding to, we shall find that the thirty- 
seven plays composing the collection will range themselves as follows : 
eleven tragedies, two tragi-comedies, ten historical plays, and fourteen 
comedies. But the classification according to sources will give some- 
what difierent results. The sources in question will naturally divide 
themselves first into the two great genera — History and Fiction, Wahr- 
heit und Dichtung ; while the former of these two genera will naturally 
subdivide into different classes or degrees of historical authenticity, 


ranging from vague and half-poetical legend to the comparatively firm 
ground of recent historical events. Again, the legendary category 
may be referred to the different countries from whose chi-onicles the 
events were borrowed : thus Hamlet is taken from the Danish chroni- 
cler Saxo-Grammaticus ; Macbeth, Lear, and Cyinbelinc refer respec- 
tively to the legends, more or less fabulous, of Scottish and British 
history; while Coriola7ius, Julius Ccesar, and Antony and Cleopatra 
are derived from the annals of ancient Rome. Many of the historical 
dramas of Shakspeare are intended to depict the events of the more 
recent and consequently more reliable details of the history of his own 
country; and these, beginning with /w;z^ John and terminating with 
Henry VIII., embrace materials possessing various shades of authen- 
ticity, fi-om what may be called the semi-legendary to a degree of pre- 
cision as great as could be expected in the then state of historical 
literature. For these pieces Shakspeare mainly drew his materials 
from the old annalist Hollinshed ; and both in their form and peculiar 
excellences this class of dramas, though not perhaps invented by 
Shakspeare, was certainly carried by him to a wonderful degree of 
perfection. These pieces are not tragedies or comedies in the strict 
sense of the word, but they are grand panoramas of national glory or 
national distress, embracing often a very considerable space of time, 
even a whole reign, and retracing — with apparent irregularity in their 
plan, but with an astonishing unity of general feeling and sentiment — 
great epochs in the life of the nation. Examples of such will be found 
in Richard II., Richard III., the two unequalled dramas on the reign 
of Henry IV., and the glorious chant of patriotic triumph embodied in 
Henry V., in which Shakspeare has completed the type of the Hero- 
King. To such pieces is applied the particular designation of Histo- 
ries; and of such histories Shakspeare, though not the inventor, was 
certainly the most prolific author. 

The second general category, that of pieces derived from fiction, need 
not detain us long. The materials for this — the largest — class of his 
dramas, Shakspeare derived from the Italian novelists and their imita- 
tors, who supplied the chief element of light literature in the sixteenth 
century. The most brilliant type of this species of writer was Boc- 
caccio, whose Novelle, translated and copied into all the tongues of 
Europe, furnished a mass of excellent materials, from Chaucer down to 
Lafontaine. These short tales, which so long formed the predominant 
type of the literature of amusement in many countries, were in many 
instances derived from a still more ancient source — the fabliaux and 
piquant stories with which the narrative poets, the moralists, and theo- 
logians of the middle ages enlivened their compositions; but in the 
form which they ultimately attained in Boccaccio and his innumerable 
imitators they were most singularly adapted to furnish an appropriate 
canvas or groundwork upon which Shakspeare was to construct his 
humorous or pathetic actions. In the first place, these tales were, from 
the nature of the case, exceedinglj^ short ; they depended for their pop- 
ularity rather upon amusing and surprising incidents than upon any 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SHAKSPEARE. 141 

development of character, which would have been ^mpract^cable within 
the narrow limits of a few pages. In dramatizing such stories, there- 
fore, the playwright enjoyed full liberty for the exercise of his peculiar 
talent of portraj-ing human character, while at the same time he had 
ready prepared to his hand a series of striking events which he could 
compress or expand as best suited his purpose ; he was left free just 
where freedom was most essential to his particular form of art, and 
spared the necessity of invention precisely where the task of invention 
would be likely to embarrass him. It is susceptible of proof that in 
no one instance has Shakspeare taken the trouble of inventing the plot 
of a piece for himself; certainly from no want of genius, but simply 
from his consummate knowledge of his art. He knew that he would 
act more profitably for his dramatic success by combining materials 
already prepared, and directing all his energies to that department in 
which he has never met an equal — the exhibition of human nature and 
human passion. How nobly he performed his task. may be perceived 
by a simple comparison of the original novel or legend which he selected 
as the groundwork of his pieces, with such creations as Ot/iello, the 
Tempest, or the Merchant of Ve?iice. The number of Shakspeare's 
pieces derived from fiction amounts to eighteen ; hy far the majority of 
these are traceable, as already remarked, to the Italian novelists and 
their French or Spanish imitators. We are not, however, to infer that 
the great poet necessarily consulted the tales in the original language. 
From a careful examination of his works it seems to result that our 
great dramatist has rarelj"^, if ever, made use, whether in the way of 
subjects for his plays or quotations introduced into the dialogue, of any 
ancient or foreign materials not then existing 121 English translations : 
and this important fact, while it does not necessarily lead to the mon- 
strous conclusion of his having been a totally illiterate man, yet fur- 
nishes proof that Ben Jonson was neither an envious carper nor a 
malicious perverter of the truth when, in his exquisite tribute to the 
genius and virtues of his departed friend, he qualifies him as having 
" small Latin and less Greek." We may also remark that what Jon- 
son, one of the most learned men of his day, may have expressed by 
tmall may have been in reality no inconsiderable tincture of scholar- 

The following general classification may be found not altogether use- 
less nor uninteresting : in it I have endeavored to combine, together 
with a rough indication of the class to which each piece belongs, the 
particular origin whence Shakspeare drew his materials : — 

I. Hl^ORY. 

i. Legendary : — 

Hamlet (Tragedy). The Chronicle of Saxo-Grammaticus, and 

an older play. ■'. 

King Lear (Tragedy). Hollinshed, and older dramas. ^^ 

Cytnbeline (Tragi-comedy). Hollinshed, and old French ro- 

142 SlIAKSPEARE. [Chap. VIL 

Macbeth (Tragedy). Hollinshed. 
Julius Ccesar (Tragedy). Plutarch. 
Antony and Cleopatra (Tragedy). Plutarch. 
Con'olanus (Tragedy). Plutarch. 

Titus Andronicus (Tragedy). Probably an older play on tha 
same subject. 

ii. Authentic : — 

Henry V/., Part I. 1 Various old plays, among which The 

Part II. J- Contention between the famous Houses 

Part III. J of Tork and Lancaster. 

King John. Founded on an older play on the same subject. 
Richard II. The Chronicles of Hall, Fabian, and Hollinshed. 
Richard III. The Chronicles, and an older but very inferior 

^ '' ' * An old play of The Famous Victories of 

Part II. \ rr jr 

Henry V. J ''''''''''' 

Hejiry VIII. 
All these belong to the department of "Histories," or Historical 

II. Fiction. 

Midsummer Nighfs Dream (Comedy). Chaucer's Knight" i 

Comedy of Errors (Comedy). The Mencechmi of Plautus. 
Taming of the Shrew (Comedy). An old English piece of the 

same name. 
Love's Labor's Lost (Comedy). Unknown ; probably an Italian 

Two Gefitlemen of Verona (Comedy). Exact origin unknown. 
Romeo and Juliet (Tragedy). Paj^nter's Palace of Pleasure. 
Merchant of Venice (Comedy). The Pccorone and the Gcsta 

AlVs Well that Ends Well (Comedy). The Palace of Pleasure^ 

translated from Boccaccio. 
Much Ado about Nothing (Comedy). An episode of the Or- 
lando Furioso. 
As Tou Like It (Comedy). Lodge's Rosalynde, and the Coke's 

Tale of Gamclyn. 
Merry Wives of Windsor (Comedy). Exact origin unknown. 
Troilus and Cressida (Tragedy). Chaucer, and the Recuyell of 

Measure for Measure (Comedy). Cinthio's Hecatommithi, Dec. 

viii. Nov. 5. 
Winter's Tale (Comed}'). Greene's tale oi Dorastus and Faxvnia. 
Tijnon of Athens (Tragedy). Plutarch, Lucian, and Palace of 


A. D.' 1564-1616.] SIIAKSPEARE. li? 

Othello (Tragedy). Cinthio's Hecatommithi^ Dec. viii. Nov. •* 
Tempest (Comedy). Exact origin unknown, probably Italij^n. 
Txvelfth Night (Comedy). A novel by Bandello, imitated b» 

Pericles (Comedy). Twine's translation of the Gesta Re 


§ 8. In the historical department of the above classification it wiL 
be seen that many plays were based upon preceding dramatic works 
treating of the same, or nearly the same subjects ; and in some few 
cases we possess the more ancient pieces themselves, exhibiting differ- 
ent degrees of imperfection and barbarism. We thus are in a position 
to compare the changes introduced by the consummate art of Shak- 
speare into the rude draughts of his theatrical predecessors, and to 
appreciate the wise economy he showed in retaining what suited his 
purpose, as well as the skill he exhibited in modifying and altering 
what did not. In one or two examples we have more than one edition 
of the same play in its different stages towards complete perfection 
under the hand of Shakspeare, instances of which may be cited ''n the 
cases of Hamlet and Lear. A careful and minute collation of such 
various editions furnishes us with precious materials for the investiga- 
tion of the most interesting and profitable problem that literary crit- 
icism can approach — the tracing of the different phases of elaboration 
through which every great work must pass. It is no mean privilege 
to be thus admitted, as it were, into the studio of the mighty painter, 
the laboratory of the mighty chemist — to mark the touches, sometimes 
bold, sometimes almost imperceptible in their delicacy, which trans- 
form the rugged sketch into the highly-finished picture, the apparently 
insignificant operations by which the rude ore is transformed into the 
consummate jewel. It is like being admitted into the penetralia of 
nature herself. The first impression which strikes the reader when 
he makes acquaintance with the Historical and Legendary category 
of Shakspeare's dramas, is the astonishing force and completeness with 
which the poet seized the general and salient peculiarities of the age 
and country which he undertook to reproduce. With the limited and 
imperfect scholarship that he probably possessed, this power is the 
more extraordinary, and shows that his vast mind must have proceeded 
in a marfner eminently synthetic; he first made his characters true to 
general and universal humanity, and then gave them the peculiar dis- 
tinguishing traits appropriate to their particular period and country. 
His persons are true portraits of Romans, for example, because they 
are first true portraits of men. Hi* great contemporary Jonson has 
shown a far more accurate and extensive knowledge of the details of 
Roman manners, ceremonies, and institutions ; but his personages, 
admirable as they are, are entirely deficient in that intense human real- 
ity which Shakspeare never fails to communicate to his dramatis j)er' 
soncB. The nature of the Historical Play, as it was understood by Shak- 
rpeare, admitted, and even required, the adoption of an extensive epoch 

144 SHAKSPEARE. [Chap. VII. 

as the subject, and a numerous crowd of agencs as the material, of 
such pieces ; and it is not too much to saj, that in all the personages 
so introduced, from the most prominent down to the most obscure, the 
reader may detect, if he takes the necessary pains, that every one had, 
in the mind of the author, a separate and distinct individuality, equally 
true to universal and to particular nature. Nay, in comparing such 
subjects as are drawn from diuerent periods in the history of his 
own or other nations, in ancient or modern times, we may remark the 
singular felicity with which this great creator has differentiated, so 
to sr.y, various phases in the character, social or political, of a people : 
thus the Romans in Coriolanus are very different from the Romans in 
Julius Ccesar or Antony and Cleopatra^ though equally true to general 
human nature and to the particular nature of the Roman people at the 
different epochs selected. The same extraordinary power of differenti- 
ating is equally perceptible in the English historical plays, as will plain- 
ly be seen on comparing King Joint, for example, with Henry IV. or 
Henry V. This power of throwing himself into a given epoch is, in 
Shakspeare, carried to a degree which cannot be justly qualified as 
anything short of superhuman. It is true that in these plays we find 
instances of gross anachronism in detail ; but these anachronisms 
never touch the essential truth of the delineation ; they are mere exter- 
nal excrescences, which can be instantly got rid of by the imaginative 
reader, and which, though they may excite a passing smile, do not 
aftect for a moment the sense of verisimilitude. Shakspeare may make 
a hero of the Trojan War quote Aristotle, or he may arm^ the Romans 
of Pharsalia with the Spanish rapier of the sixteenth century; but he 
never infects the language and sentiments of classical times with the 
conceits of gallant and courtly compliment that were current in the 
age of Louis XIV. In the scenes of private and domestic life which 
he has freely intermingled with the stirring and heroic episodes of war 
or policy, his knowledge of human nature enables him to paint with 
an equally firm and masterly touch the hero and the man. The deli- 
cate task of giving glimpses into the private life of great historical 
personages, which we find generally evaded in all other authors who 
have treated such subjects, is a proof of the supremacy of Shakspeare's 
genius. The same thing may be said of the boldness with which he 
has introduced comic incidents and characters amid the most lofty and 
solemn events of history, and as frequently and successfully in his Ro- 
man as in his English plays. In the two parts of Henry IV. the heroic 
and familiar are side by side, and the Prince's adventures with the 
inimitable Falstaff and his other pleasant but disreputable companions, 
are closely intermingled with the majestic march of the great historical 
events. This shows that Shakspeare, far from fearing, as an inferior 
artist would have done, the juxtaposition of the familiar and the sub- 
lime, the wildest and most fantastic comedy with the loftiest and 
gravest tragedj', not only made such apparently discordant elements 
mutually heighten and complete the general effect which he contem- 
plated, but in so doing teaches us that in human life the sublime and 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SHAKSPEARE. 145 

the ridiculous are side by side, and that the source of laughter is ' 
placed close by the fountain of tears. 

Even a cursory examination of these wonderful plays will supply us 
with another and not less remarkable evidence of Shakspeare's creative 
power. In them, though the chief characters may be historical, the 
action requires the introduction of a multitude of other personages ; 
and these are not always necessarily subordinate ones, which the poet 
must unavoidably have created out of his own observation. Now, 
in such cases the most difficult trial of a dramatic talent would be the 
callida junctura which should make the imaginary harmonize with 
the historical personages ; and this ordeal would be equally arduous 
whether the subject upon which it was exercised were persons or events. 
Walter Scott, with all his power of delineation, has not always been 
successful in hiding tho. Join i?ig on of the real with the imaginary. In 
Shakspeare, on the contrary', we never see a deficiency : indeed, whether 
by his consummate skill in realizing the ideal, or in idealizing the real, 
both the one and the other stand before us in the same solidity ; and it 
is not too much to say that to us his imaginary persons are as much 
real entities — nay, often far more so — than the authentic figures of 
history itself. Thus, to our intimate consciousness, Othello and Shylock 
are persons as real as Coriolanus and Wolsey. 

In the department of Shakspeare's works which we are now treating, 
as well as in the other category which we shall examine presently, 
there are unquestionably some pieces manifestly inferior to others. 
Thus among the English Histories the three plays upon the subject of 
Henry VI. bear evident marks of an inferior hand, and were in all 
probability older dramas which Shakspeare retouched and revivified 
here and there with some of his inimitable strokes of nature and poetic 
fancy. The last of the English historical plays, at least the latest in \^ 
the date of its action, is Henry VIII. This piece bears many traces of*^ 
having been in part composed by a different hand : in the diction, the V 
turn of thought, and in particular in the peculiar mechanism of the ^ 
versification, there is much to lead to the conclusion that Shakspeare, ^ 
in its composition, was associated with one other, if not more, poets. 
This kind of collaboration was an almost universal practice in that 
age ; and the circumstance that the play was written with a particular 
intention and contained very pointed and graceful compliments both to 
Elizabeth and her successor seem to indicate that it was composed with 
great rapidity, and that therefore Shakspeare was likely to have worked 
upon it in partnership with others. 

§ 9. But a general conception of the dramatic genius of Shakspeare 
must be founded upon an examination of all his pieces; and while the 
historical dramas show how he could free his mind from the trammels 
imposed by the necessity of adhering to real facts and persons, the 
romantic portion of his pieces, or those founded upon Fiction, will 
equally prove that the freedom of an ideal subject did not deprive him 
of the strictest fidelity to general nature. The characters that move 
through the action of these latter dramas exhibit the same consummate 

146 SHAKSPEARE, [Chap. VII. 

appreciation of the general and the individual in humanity; and though 
he has occasionally stepped over the boundary of ordinary human 
nature, and has created a multitude of supernatural beings, fairies, 
spirits, witches, and other creatures of the imagination, even in these 
the severest consistency and the strictest verisimilitude never for a 
moment abandon him. They are always constantes sibi ; we know that 
such beings do not and cannot exist; but we irresistibly feel, in reading 
the scenes in which they appear, that if they did exist, they could not 
exist other than as he has painted them. The data being established, 
the consequences, to the most remote and trivial details, flow from them 
in a manner that no analysis can gainsay. In the mode of delineating 
passion and feeling Shakspeare proceeds differently from all other dra- 
matic authors. They, even the greatest among them, create a person- 
age by accumulating in it all such traits as their reading and observa- 
tion show to usually accompany the fundamental elements which go to 
form its constitution : and thus they all, more or less, fall into the 
error of making their personages embodiments of such and such a 
moral peculiarity. They give us admirable and complete monographies 
of ambition, of avarice, of hypocrisy, and the like. Moreover, in the 
expression of their feelings, whether tragic or comic, such characters 
almost universally describe the sensations they experience. This men 
and women in real life never do : nay, when under the influence of 
strong emotion or other powerful moral impression, we indicate to 
others what we feel, rather, and far more powerfully, by what we sup- 
press than by what we utter. In this respect the men and women of 
Shakspeare exactly resemble the men and women of real life, and not 
the men and women of the stage. Nor has he ever fallen into the 
common error of forgetting th^ infinite complexity of human charac- 
ter. If we analyze any one of the prominent personages of Shak- 
speare, though we may often at. first sight perceive in it the predomi- 
nance of some one quality or passion, on a nearer view we shall find 
that the complexity of its moral being goes on widening and deepening 
with every new attempt on our part to grasp or sound the whole extent 
of its individuality. Macaulay has excellently observed that it is easy 
to say, for example, that the primary characteristic of Shylock is re- 
vengefulness ; but that a closer insight shows a thousand other quali- 
ties in him, the mutual play and varying intensity of which go to com- 
pose the complex being that Shakspeare has drawn in the terrible Jew. 
Thus Othello is no mere impersonation of jealousy, nor Macbeth of 
ambition, nor Falstaff of selfish gayety, nor Timon of misanthropy, 
nor Imogene of wifely love : in each of these personages the more 
closely we analyze them the deeper and more multiform- will appear 
the infinite springs of action which make up their personality. Shak- 
speare has shown, in a manner that no one has either equalled or 
approached, how a given character will act under the stimulus of some 
overmastering passion ; but he has painted ambitious and revengeful 
men, not ambition and revenge in human form. Nothing is more 
childish than the superficial judgment which identifies the great crea- 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SHAKSPEARE. 147 

tions of Shakspeare with some prominent moral or intellectual charac- 
teristic. His conceptions are as multiform as those of nature herself; 
and as the physiologist knows that even in the plant or mollusk of 
apparently the simplest construction there are depths of organization 
which bid defiance to all attempts to fathom them, so in the characters 
of the great painter of humanity, there is a variety which grows more 
and more bewildering the more earnestly we strive to penetrate its 
mysteries. This wonderful power of conceiving complex character is 
at the bottom of another distinguishing peculiarity of our great poet; 
namely, the total absence in his works of any tendency to self- reproduc- 
tion. Possessing only the dramas of Shakspeare, it would be totally 
impossible for us to deduce any notion of what were the sympathies 
and tendencies of the author. He is absolutely impersonal ; or rather 
he is all persons in turn : for no poet ever possessed to a like degree 
the portentous power of successively identifying himself with a multi- 
tude of the most diverse individualities, and of identifying himself so 
completely that we cannot detect a trace of preference. Let us suppose 
a man capable of conceiving and delineating such a picture of jealousy 
as we have in the tragedy of Othello. Would not such a man be irre- 
sistibly impelled to do a second time what he had so admirably done 
the first.? But Shakspeare, when he has once thrown off such a char- 
acter as Othello, never recurs to it again. Othello disappears from the 
stage as completely as a real Othello would have done from the world, 
and leaves behind him no similar personage. True, Shakspeare has 
given us a number of other pictures of jealous men ; but their jealousy 
is as difierent from that of Othello as in real life the jealousy of one 
man is difierent from that of another. Leontes, Ford, Posthumus, are 
all equally jealous ; but how differently is the passion manifested in 
each of these ! In the female characters, too, what a wonderful range, 
what an inexhaustible variety! Perhaps in no class of his impersona- 
tions are the depth, the delicacy, and the extent of Shakspeare's creative 
power more visible than in his women : for we must not forget that in 
writing these exquisitely varied types of female character, he knew that 
they would be intrusted, in representation, to boys or young men — no 
female having acted on the stage till long after the age which witnessed 
such creations as Hermione, Lady Macbeth, Rosalind, or Juliet. We 
may conceive what a chill it must have been to the imagination of a 
poet to be conscious that a marvel of female delicacy, grandeur, or 
passion would be personated on the stage by a performer of the other 
sex, and that the author would feel what Shakspeare has so powerfully 
expressed in the language of his own Cleopatra : — 

" The quick comedians 
■Extemporary shall stage us : Antony 
Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see . 
Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness." 

Surely the power of ideal creation has never undergone a severer or- 
deal. Shakspeare's triumph over this great practical difficulty is the more 


surprising as there is, perhaps, no class of his personages more varied, 
more profound, and more exquisitely delicate than his female charac- 
ters, which possess a far higher tone of sentiment than can be found in 
the most beautiful conceptions of womanly qualities which even the 
greatest of his contemporaries — as Beaumont, Massinger, and Ford 
— have given to the drama. Some critics, indeed, have traced his 
superior refinement in this respect to the imitation of the pure and 
lofty feminine ideal which he found in the Arcadia of the illustrious 
Sidney and the graceful purity of the Faerie ^ueene. 

In the expression of strong emotion, as well as in the delineation of 
character, Shakspeare is superior to all other dramatists, superior to all 
other poets. He never finds it necessary, in order to produce the eflect 
he desires, to have recourse in the one case to violent or declamatory 
rhetoric, or in the other to unusual or abnormal combinations of quali- 
ties. In him we meet with no sentimental assassins, no moral mon- 
sters, — 

" Blessed with one virtue and a thousand crimes." 

Without overstepping the ordinary limits of human experience, he is 
always able to interest or to instruct us with the exhibition of general 
passions and feelings, manifesting themselves in the way we generally 
see them in the world. He is like the great painter of antiquity, who 
produced his ever-varying eflfects by the aid of four simple colors. In 
the expression, too, he uniformly draws, at least in his finest passages, 
his illustrations from the most simple and familiar objects, from the 
most ordinary scenes of life. When a great occasion presents itself, 
he ever shows himself equal to that occasion. There are, indeed, in 
his works many passages where he has allowed his taste for intellectual 
subtleties to get the better of his judgment, and where his passion for 
playing upon words — a passion which was the literary vice of his day, 
and the effects of which are traceable in the writings of Bacon as well 
as in his — is permitted to cool the enthusiasm excited by the situation 
or the feelings of the speaker. But this indulgence in conceits gen- 
erally disappears in the great culminating moments of intense passion : 
and while we are speaking of this defect with due critical severity, 
we must not forget that there are occasions when the intensest moral 
agitation is not incompatible with a morbid and feverish activity of the 
intellect, and that the most violent emotion sometimes finds a vent in 
the intellectual contortions of a conceit. Nevertheless, it cannot be 
denied that Shakspeare very often runs riot in the indulgence of this 
tendency, to the injury of the effect designed and in defiance of the 
most evident principles of good taste. His style is unquestionably a 
very difficult one in some respects ; and this obscurity is not to be at- 
tributed, except of course in some particular instances, to the corrupt 
state in which his writings have descended to us, and still less to the 
archaism or obsoleteness of his diction. Many of the great dramatists 
his contemporaries, for example Massinger and Ford, are in this 
respect as different from Shakspeare as if they had been separated 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SHAKSPEARE. 149 

from him hj two centuries of lime — their writings being as remarka- 
ble for the limpidity and clearness of expression as his are occasionally 
for its complexity. It is not therefoi'e to the remoteness of the period 
that we must ascribe this peculiarity. Indeed in this respect Shak- 
speare's language will present nearly as much difficulty to an English 
as to a foreign student. We must look for the cause of this in the 
enormously developed intellectual and imaginative faculty in the poet; 
leading him to make metaphor of the boldest kind the ordinary tissue 
of his style. The thoughts rise so fast under his pen, and successively 
generate others with such a portentous rapidity, that the reader requires 
almost as great an intellectual vivacity as the poet, in order to trace the 
leading idea through the labyrinth of subordinate illustration. In all 
figurative writing the metaphor, the image, is an ornament, something 
extraneous to the thought it is intended to illustrate, and may be 
detached from it, leaving the fundamental idea intact : in Shakspeare 
the metaphor is the very fabric of the thought itself and entirely insep- 
arable from it. His diction may be compared to some elaborate monu- 
ment of the finest Gothic architecture, in which the superficial glance 
loses itself in an inextricable maze of sculptural detail and fantastically 
fretted ornamentation, but where a close examination shows that every 
pinnacle, every buttress, every moulding is an essential member of the 
construction. This intimate union of the reason and the imagination 
is a peculiarity common to Shakspeare and Bacon, in whose writings 
the severest logic is expressed in the boldest metaphor, and the very 
titles of whose books and the very definitions of whose philosophical 
terms are frequently images of the most figjirative character. There is 
assuredly no poet, ancient or modern, from whose writings may be 
extracted such a nvnnber of profound and yet practical observations 
applicable to the common aflairs and interests of life; observations 
expressed with the simplicity of a casual remark, yet pi'egnant with the 
condensed wisdom of philosophy; exhibiting more than the acuteness 
of De Rochefoucauld, without his cynical contempt for humanity, and 
more than the practical good sense of Moliere, with a far wider and 
more universal applicability. In the picturing of abnormal and super- 
natural states of existence, as in the delineation of every phase of 
mental derangement, or the sentiments and actions of fantastic and 
supernatural beings, Shakspeare exhibits the same coherency and con- 
sistency in the midst of what at first sight appears altogether to trar- 
scend ordinary experience. Every grade of folly, from the verge ol 
idiotcy to the most fantastic eccentricitj', every shade of moral pertur- 
bation, from the jealous fury of Othello to the frenzy of Lear or the 
not less touching madness of Ophelia, is represented in his plays with 
a fidelity so complete that the most experienced physiologists have 
afnrmed that such intellectual disturbances may be studied in bis pages 
with as much profit as in the actual patients of a madhouse. 

§ 10, The non^dramatic works of Shakspeare consist of the two nar- 
rative poems, written in the then fashionable Italian stanza, entitled Venus 
and Adorns, and the RaJ)e of Lucrece, the volume of beautiful Sonnets 

150 SHAKSPEARE. [Chap. VII. 

whose internal signification has excited so much controversy, and a few 
lyrics, some of which appear to have good and others but indifferent 
claims to be attributed to the great poet. Venus and Adonis, which the 
author himself, in his dedication to the Earl of Southampton, calls " the 
first heir of his invention," was undoubtedly one of his earliest produc- 
tions, and though the date of its composition is not precisely known, was 
possibly written by Shakspeare before he left Stratford, at all events at 
the very outset of his poetical career. It is stamped with the strongest 
marks of youthful genius, exhibiting all the flush and voluptuous glow 
of a fervent imagination. The story is the common mythological epi- 
sode of the loves of Venus and the hunter ; and both in its form and 
substance, it must be regarded as an original attempt at a new kind of 
poetry, in which the extraordinary success of Shakspeare aftei-wards 
induced a multitude of other poets to follow his example. It ran 
through an unusual number of editions in a very short time, and was 
indeed one of the most successful literary ventures of the age. In the 
rich and somewhat sensual love-scenes in this poem, in the frequent 
inimitable touches of description which give earnest of Shakspeare's 
miraculous power of painting external nature, and in the delicious but 
somewhat efteminate melody of the verse, we see all the marks of 
youth, but it is the youth of a Shakspeare. The Rqpe of Lucrece, 
though less popular than its predecessor, a circumstance which may be_ 
attributed to the repulsive nature of the subject, is yet a poem of very 
great merit. The Sonnets of Shakspeare possess a peculiar interest, 
not only from their intrinsic beauty, but from the circumstance of their 
evidently containing carefullj^ veiled allusions to the personal feelings 
of their author, allusions which point to some deep disappointment in 
love and friendship suffered by the poet. They were first printed in 
1609, though, from allusions found in contemporary writings, many of 
them were composed previously. They are one hundred and fifty-four 
in number, and some are evidently addressed to a person of the male 
sex, while others are as plainly intended for a woman. The poet bit- 
terly complains of the treachery of the male, and the infidelity of the 
female object of his affection, while he speaks both of the one and of 
the other in the most ardent langua'ge of passionate yet melancholy 
devotion. Throughout the whole of these exquisite but painful compo- 
sitions there runs a deep undercurrent of sorrow, self-discontent, and 
wounded affection, which bears every mark of being the expression of 
a real sentiment. No clew, however, has as yet been discovered by 
which we may hope to trace the persons to whom these poems are 
addressed, or the painful events to which they allude. The volume 
was dedicated, on its first appearance, by the publisher, Thomas Thorpe, 
to " Mr. W. H.," who is qualified as the only begetter of these sonnets; 
and some hypotheses suppose that this mysterious " Mr. W. H." was 
no other than William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, one of Shakspeare's 
most powerful patrons, and a man of great splendor and accomplish- 
ments. It is, however, difficult to suppose that a personage so high- 
placed could easily have interfered to destroy the happiness of the com- 

A. D. 1564-1616.] SIIAKSPEARE. 151 

paratively humble player and poet of the Globe, or, if he had, that a 
bookseller would have ventured to allude to him under so familiar a 
designation as " W. H." In fact the whole production is shrouded in 
mystery; and we must content ourselves with admiring the deep ten- 
derness, the melancholy grace, and the inimitable touches of poetical 
fancy and moral reflection which abound in these poems, without 
endeavoring to solve the enigma — unquestionably a painful and per- 
sonal one — involved in the circumstances under which they were com- 



J 1. Ben Jonson. His life. ^ 2. His tragedies and comedies. ^ 3. His masques 
and other works. ^ 4. Beaumont and Fletcher. § 5. Massinger. § 6. 
Ford. § 7. Webster. § 8. Chapman, Dekker, Middleton, Marstox, 
and other minor Dramatists. § 9. Shirley. § 10. Remarks on the Eliza- 
bethan drama. 

§ 1. The age of Elizabeth and James I. produced a galaxy of great 
dramatic poets, the like of whom, whether we regard the nature or the 
degree of excellence exhibited in their works, the world has never seen. 
In the general style of their writings, they bear a strong family resem- 
blance to Shakspeare ; and indeed many of the peculiar merits of their 
great prototj^pe may be found scattered among his various contem- 
poraries, and in some instances carried to a height little inferior to that 
found in his writings. Thus intensity of pathos hardly less touching 
than that of Shakspeare may be found in the dramas of Ford, gallant 
animation and dignity in the dialogues of Beaumont and Fletcher, deep 
tragic emotion in the sombre scenes of Webster, noble moral elevation 
in the. graceful plays of Massinger; but in Shakspeare, and in Shak- 
speare alone, do we see the consummate union of all the most opposite 
qualities of the poet, the observer, and the philosopher. 

The name which stands next to that of Shakspeare in the list of these 
illustrious dramatists is that of Ben Jonson (1573-1637), a vigorous 
and solid genius, built high with learning and knowledge of life, and 
whose numerous works, dramatic as well as other, possess an imposing 
and somewhat monumental weight. He was born in 1573, and was 
consequently nine years younger than Shakspeare. His career was full 
of strange vicissitudes. Though compelled by a step-father to follow 
the humble trade of a bricklayer, he succeeded in gratifying an intense 
thirst for learning. He passed some short time, probably with the 
assistance of a patron, at the University of Cambridge, and there, as 
well as after leaving college, continued to study with a diligence that 
certainly rendered him one of the most learned men of his age — an 
age fertile in learned men. He is known to have served some time as a 
soldier in the Low Countries, and to have distinguished himself by his 
courage in the field ; but his theatrical career seems to have begun 
when he was about twenty years of age, when we find him attached as 
an actor to one of the minor theatres, called the Curtain. His success 
as a performer is said to have been very small, arising most probably 
from want of grace and beauty of person ; and there is no reason to 
suppose that his theatrical career differed from the almost vmiversal 
type of the actor-dramatists of that age. While still a very young 

A. D. 1 573-1637.] BEN JONS ON. 153 

man he fought a duel with one of his fellow-actors, whom he had the 
misfortune to kill, receiving at the same time a severe wound ; and 
for this infringement of the law, which at that particular period was* 
punished with extreme se%e'-5t3S the poet was condemned to death, 
though afterwards pardoned. Among other vicissitudes of life, Jon- 
son is related to have twice changed his religion, having been con- 
verted bj a Jesuit to the Roman Catholic faith, and to have afterwards 
again returned to the bosom of his mother-Church, on which last 
occasion he is said, when receiving the Sacrament on his reconversion 
to have drunk out the whole chalice, in sign of the sincerity of his 

His first dramatic work, the Comedy of Every Man in his Humor, 
is assigned to the year 1596. This piece, the action and characters of 
which were originally Italian, failed in its first representation ; and 
there is a tradition, far from improbable in itself, that Shakspeare, who 
was then in the full blaze of his popularity, advised the young aspirant 
to make some changes in the piece and to transfer its action to Eng- 
land. Two years afterwards the comedy, with considerable alterations, 
was brought out a second time, at Shakspeare's theatre of the Globe, 
and then with triumphant success. One of the few parts which Shak- 
speare is known to have personated on the stage is that of Old Knowel, 
the jealous merchant, in this comedy. Thus was probably laid the 
foundation of that warm and solid friendship between Jonson and Shak- 
speare, which appears to have continued during their whole lives, and 
the existence of which is proved not only by man_y pleasant aiiecdotes 
recording the gay and witty social intercourse of the two great poets, 
but by the enthusiastic, and j^et discriminating, eulogy in which Jonson 
^ who was not a man to give light or unconsidered praise — has hon- 
ored the memory and described the genius of his friend. From the 
moment of this second representation of his comedy Ben Jonson's 
literary reputation was established ; and during the remainder of his 
very active career, though the success of particular pieces may have 
fluctuated, Jonson undoubtedly occupied a place at the very head of 
the dramatic authors of his day. His social and generous, though 
coarse and somewhat overbearing character, the extraordinary power 
and richness of his conversation, contributed to make him one of the 
most prominent figures in the literary society of that day. His "wit- 
combats " at the famous taverns of the Mermaid, the Devil, and the 
Falcon, have been commemorated in many anecdotes; and he even 
appears to have been regarded at last as a sort of intellectual poten- 
tate, much as his great namesake Samuel Johnson was afterwards, and 
to have conferred upon his favorites the title of his sons ; " sealing 
them," as he says in one of his epigrams, " of the tribe of Ben." 

His first comedy was followed in the succeeding year by Every Alan 
Out of his Humor, and his literary activity continued to be very 
great, for in 1603 he gave to the world his tragedy of Sejanus, and in 
1605 he appears to have had some share, with Chapman, Marston, 
Dekker, and other dramatists, in the piece of East-ward Hoe I a comed_y 


which cp.lled down upon all connected with it a severe persecution from 
the Cou-rt, which was bitterly offended by certain satirical allusions to 
the favor then arxorded by King James to his Scottish countrymen. 
Jonson was involved in this persecution ; and there is a story that the 
guilty wits having been condemned to have their noses slit, Jonson 
generously refused to abandon his associates, and that his mother had 
prepared for herself and him " a strong and lusty poison," to enable 
him to escape the ignominy of such a disfigurement. With the frank 
and violent character of Jonson it was impossible that he could escape 
continual quarrels and disputes, so difficult to avoid in a literary career, 
and particularly in the dramatic profession. Thus we have notices of 
violent feuds between him and Dekker, Chapman, Marston, and others, 
as well as Inigo Jones, the Court architect and arranger of festivities 
and masques, whose favor seems to have given great umbrage to the 
proud and self-confident nature of old Ben. ISIany of these literary 
quarrels may be traced in the dramatic works of Jonson and his con- 
temporaries, who used the stage as a vehicle for mutual attack and 
recrimination. In rapid succession between 1603 and 1619 followed 
some of Jonson's finest works, Volpone, Epicene^ the Alchemist^ and the 
tragedy of Catiline. In the latter year he was appointed Laureate or 
Court poet, and was frequently employed in getting up those splendid 
and fantastic entertainments called masques, in which magnificence 
of scenery, decoration, and costume, ingenious, allegorical, and mjth- 
ological personages, exquisite music, dancing, and declamation were 
made tlie instruments for paying extravagant compliments to the king 
and the great personages of the Court, on occasion of any festivity at 
the palace or in the mansions of the great. These charming composi- 
tions, in which Jonson exhibited all the stores of his invention and all 
the resouixes of his vast and elegant scholarship, were represented 
sometimes by actors, but often by the ladies and gentlemen of the 
Court, and were performed, not in the public theatres, but in palaces 
and great houses, both in London and the country. Many of Jonson's 
later pieces were entirely unsuccessful, and in one of the last, the 
Nevj Inn, acted in 1630, the poet complains bitterly of the hostility and 
bad taste of the audience. Towards the end of his life Ben Jonson ap- 
pears to have fallen into poverty, aggravated by disappointment and ill 
health, the latter probably caused by his too great fondness for copious 
libations of sack. He died in 1637, in the twelfth year of the reign 
of Charles I., and was buried, it is said, in a vertical position, in 
the churchyard of Westminster, the stone over his grave having 
been inscrilDcd with the excellent and laconic words, " O rare Ben 

§ 2. The dramatic as well as the other works of this great poet are 
BO numerous that I must content myself with a very cyrsory survey 
of them. They ai-e of various degrees of merit, ranging from an 
excellence not surpassed by any contemporary excepting Shakspeare, 
to the lowest point of laborious m.ediocrity. Two of them are trage- 
dies, the T^iz/Zt^/^^a^./i- and the Conspiracy of Catiline. The subjects 

A. D. 1573-1653-] BEN JONSOK 155 

of both these plajs are borrowed from the Roman historians, and the 
dialogue and action in both may be regarded as a mosaic of strikinj^ 
and brilliant extracts from the Latin literature, reproduced byjonson 
with such a consummate force and vigor that we maj^ call him a Roman 
author who composed in English. Nothing can exceed the minute ac- 
curacy with which all the details of the Roman manners, ceremonies, 
religion, and sentiments are reproduced; and yet the effect of the whole 
is singularly stiff and unpleasing, partly perhaps from the absence of 
pathos and tenderness which characterizes Jonson's mind, and partly 
from the unmanageable nature of the subjects, the hero in both cases 
being so odious that no art can secure for his fate the sympathy of the 
reader. Many of the scenes, however, particularly those of a declama- 
tory character, as the trial of Silius and Cremutius Cordus before the 
abject Senate, the appearance of^Tiberius, and the magnificent oration 
in which Petreius describes the defeat and death of Catiline, are of ex- 
traordinary pov/er and grandeur. Of comedies, properly so called, Jon- 
son composed fifteen, the best of which are incoxitQ?,ioh\y Every Alan in 
his Humor, Volpone, Epice7ie or the Silent Woman, and the Alchemist. 
The plots or intrigues of Jonson are far superior to those of the gener- 
ality of his contemporaries : he always constructed them himself, and 
with great care and skill. Those of Volpone and the Silent Woman for 
example, though some of the incidents are extravagant, are admirable 
for the constructive skill they display, and for the art with which each 
detail is made to contribute to the catastrophe. The general effect, 
however, of Jonson's plaj's, though abundantly satisfactory to the 
reason, is hard and defective to the taste. The character of his mind 
was eminently analytic; he dissected the vices, the fdllies, and the 
affectations of society, and presented them to the reader rather like 
anatomical preparations than like men and women. His observation 
was extensive and acute ; but his mind loved to dwell rather upon the 
eccentricities and monstrosities of human nature than upon those vini- 
versal features with which all can sympathize, as all possess them. His 
mind was singularly deficient in what is called humanity ; his point of 
view is invariably that of the satirist, and thus, as he fixed his attention 
chiefly upon what was abnormal, many of his most elaborately-draw.i 
portraits are a sort of dry, harsh, abstruse caricatures of absurdities 
which were peculiar to the manners and society of that day, and appear 
to us as strange and quaint as the pictures of our ancestors in their 
stiff and fantastic dresses. The satiric tendency of Jonson's mind, too, 
induced him to take his materials, both for intrigue and character, from 
odious or repulsive sources ; thus the subject of two of his finest pieces, 
Volpone and the Alchemist, turns entirely upon a series of ingenious 
cheats and rascalities ; all the persons, without exception, being either 
scoundrels or their dupes. Nevertheless, in spite of these peculiarities, 
the knowledge of character displayed by Jonson is so vast, the force 
and vigor of expression are so unbounded, he has poured forth into 
his dialogue such a wonderful wealth of illustration drawn from men 
as well as books, that his comedies form a studj eminently stiJ^siantial. 


In some of them, as in Poetaster, Bartholomew Fair, and the Talc of 
a Tub, Jonson has attacked particular persons and parties, as Dekker in 
the first, the Puritans in the second, and Inigo Jones in the third; but 
these pieces can have but little interest for the modern reader. The 
tone of morality which prevails throughout Jonson's works is high 
and manlj, and he is particularly remarkable for the lofty standard he 
invariably claims for the social value of the poet, the dramatist, and 

\ the satirist. Though he has too often devoted his great powers to the 

'> delineation of those oddities and absurdities which were then called 

humors, and which may be defined as natural follies and weaknesses 

exaggerated by affectation, he has traced more than one truly comic 

^, personage, the interest of which must be permanent; thus his admirable 
//^ type of coward braggadocio in Bobadill will always deserve to occupy 

\i a place in the great gallery of human folly. The want of tenderness 
and delicacy which I have ascribed to Jonson will be especially perceived 
in the harsh and unamiable characters which he has given to his female 
persons. Without stamping him as a woman-hater, it may be said 
that there is hardly one female character in all his dramas which is 
represented in a graceful or attractive light, while a great many of them 
are absolutely repulsive from their coarseness and their vices. 

§ 3. It is singular that while Jonson in his plays should be distin- 
guished for that hardness and dryness which I have endeavored to 
point out, this same poet, in another large and beautiful category of 
his works, should be remarkable for the elegance and refinement of his 
invention and his style. In the Masques and Court E^itertainments 
which he composed for the amusement of the king and the great nobles, 
as well as in the charming fragment of a pastoral drama entitled The 
Sad Shepherd, Jonson appears quite another man. Everything that 
the richest and most delicate invention could supply, aided by extensive, 
elegant, and recondite reading, is lavished upon these courtly compli- 
ments, the gracefulness of which almost makes us forget their adulation^ 
and servility. This servility, it should be remarked, was the fashion > j 
of the times; and was carried quite as far towards the pedantic ancl^ 
imbecile James as it had been towards his great predecessor, Elizabeth. v^ 
Of such masques and entertainments, Jonson composed about thirty-five,% 
many of which exhibit a richness and playfulness of invention whicli 
have never been surpassed. These productions were, of course, generally> 
short, and depended in a great measure for their effect upon the scenes, 
machinery, costumes, dances, and songs, with which they were thickly 
interspersed. The magnificence sometimes displayed in these spectacles 
was extraordinary, and forms a striking contrast with the beggarly 
mise 671 settle of the regular theatres of those days. Among the most 
beautiful of these masques we may mention Paris Ajiniversary, the 
Masque of Oberon, and the Masque of Queens. In the dialogue of these 
slight pieces, as well as in the lyrics which are frequently introduced, 
we see how graceful and melodious could become the genius of this 
great poet, though generally attuned to the severer notes of the satiric 
nuise. Besides his dramatic works Jonson left a very large quantity of 

A. D. 1576-1625.] BEAUMONT AND FLETCUER. 157 

literary remains in prose and verse. The former portion contains 
many curious and valuable notes macie bj Jonson on books and men, 
among which are particularly interesting the references to Shakspeare 
and Bacon ; and the latter consists chiefly of epigrajtis written in the 
manner of Martial, and sometimes containing interesting notices of 
contemporary persons and things. All these are pregnant with wit, 
fancy, and solid learning, and confirm the idea which we derive from 
Jonson's dramas of the power, richness, and variety of his genius. 

§ 4, Superior to Ben Jonson in variety and animation, though 
hardly equal to him in solidity of knowledge, were the two illustrious 
dramatists who worked together with so intimate a union that it is 
impossible, in the works composed before their friendship was dissolved 
by death, to separate their contributions. These were Beaumont (1586- 
1615) and Fletcher (1576-1625), both men of a higher social status, 
by birth and by education, than the generality of the dramatists of this 
splendid epoch; forBeaum.ont was of noble family, and the son of a judge, 
while Fletcher was son to Bishop Fletcher, an ecclesiastic, however, of 
no very enviable reputation, in the reign of Elizabeth. John Fletcher 
was born in 1576; Thomas Beaumont ten yotirs later, but he died early, 
in 1615, at the age of thirty, and his friend survived him ten j^ears, and 
was one of the victims to the plague in 1625. Concerning the details 
of their lives and characters we possess but vague and scanty informa- 
tion ; it is, however, evident from their works that they had both re- 
ceived a learned education. They were accomplished men, possessing 
a degree of scholarship far inferior, perhaps, in depth and accuracy to 
that of Jonson, but amply sufficient to furnish their writings with rich 
allusions and abundant ornaments. The dramatic works of these brilliant 
fellow-laborers, in spite of the very short existence of the one, and the 
not very long life of the other, are extraordinary not only for theii 
excellence and variety, but also for their number, their collected dramas 
— which were not printed in a complete form till 1647 — amounting to 
fifty-two. Some of these, it is certain, were acted before Beaumont's 
death ; and of the remainder many are attributed to Fletcher alone, and 
this probably with justice, though it is impossible to know how far 
Fletcher, in those works which are to be ascribed to the period succeed- 
ing that event, may have profited by the unfinished sketches thrown 
off by them both in partnership. The common tradition relates that 
Beaumont possessed more of the elevated, sublime, and tragic genius, 
while Fletcher was rather distinguished by gayety and comic humor; 
but so intimately interwoven is the glory of these two excellent poets, 
that neither in their names nor in their writings does biography or 
criticism ever separate them. Such imperfect notices, however, as have 
come down to our time upon this subject I will introduce here, as they 
will assist the memory in judging of such a multiplicity of pieces, by 
dividing them into comparatively manageable groups. Dryden, who has 
spoken with just enthusiasm of the works of these great dramatists, to 
whom he himself owed so much, has asserted that the first successful 
piece they placed upon the stage was the charming romantic drama of 



Philaster^ though thej had composed several before this production 
raised their names to a high pitch of popularity. Among the pieces 
performed anterior to 1615 may be mentioned, besides Philaster, the 
Maid's Tragedy^ A King and No King, the Laws of Candy, all of a 
lofty or tragic character; while among the dramas belonging to the 
same early period may be specified the following, as exhibiting the 
comic genius of the two illustrious fellow-laborers : the Wo7nan-hater, 
the Knight of the Burning Pestle (one of their richest and most popular 
extravaganzas), the Ho7iest Man's Fortune., the Captain, and the CoX' 
cotnb. Of those attributed, with more or less show of probabilitj', to 
Fletcher alone, it will be seen that a large proportion possess a charac- 
ter in which the comic tone is predominant. I will specify the follow- 
ing : the excellent comedies of the Chances, the Spa7iish Curate, Beg' 
gars' Bush, SiVid Rtde a Wife and Have a Wife. But a mere enumera- 
tion of the principal dramas of these animated and prolific playwrights 
will be found tiresome and unsatisfactory. I will therefore, after mak- 
ing a few general remarks on the genius and manner of Beaumont and 
Fletcher, note such peculiarities in their principal plays as my limited 
space will permit.\The first quality which strikes the reader in making 
acquaintance with these poets is the singularly airy, free, and animated 
manner in which they exhibit incident, sentiment, and action. They 
evidently ^vl■ote with great ease and rapidity; and their productions, 
though occasionally oftending against the rules of good taste and pro- 
priety, are never deficient in the tone of good society. Their dialogue, 
far less crowded with thought than that of Shakspeare, and less bur- 
dened with scholar-like allusion than that of Jonson, is singularly 
vivacious and flowing. Their style, though not altogether free from 
afi'ectation, is wonderfully limpid, and will generally be found much 
easier to understand at the first glance than that of Shakspeare — a 
clearness which arises from less complexity in the ideas. They often 
attain, in their more poetical and declamatory passages, a high eleva- 
tion both of tragic and romantic eloquence. In the delineation of 
character and passion they are inferior to the great artist with whom 
they have not seldom ventured to measure their strength ; and if ever 
they have deserved the high honor of being compared for a moment 
with Shakspeare, it must be remembered that we must select, as the 
subject of such comparison, not the deeper and vaster creations of the 
great master's genius, — 

" For in that circle none durst walk but he," — 

not, in short, such works as Ha^nlet, Lear, Othello, but rather what 
may be called his secondary pieces, such as Much Ado about Nothing, 
Measure for Measure, or the Tempest — works in which the graceful, 
fantastic, and romantic elements predominate. In this department 
Beaimiont and Fletcher are no unworthy rivals to the greatest of 
dramatists. They possess high comic powers in the delineation of 
violently farcical and extravagant characters. Their portraiture of 
bragging cowardice in Bessus is one of the finest and completest 


A. D. 1576-1625.] BEAUMONT AND FLETCUER, 159 

delineations which the stage has given ; while in such quaint and out- 
rageously ludicrous impersonations as those of Lazarillo, the hungry 
courtier who is in vain pursuit of the "umbrana's head," which is the 
object of his idolatry, they have touched the very brink to which 
humorous extravagance can be carried. Their plots, like those of 
Shakspeare, are often carelessly constructed and improbable in inci- 
dent; but the curiosity of the reader is always kept alive by striking 
situations and amusing turns of fortune. Their materials are similar 
to those which the romantic dramatists of that age generally employed 
— Italian and French novels, and sometimes legendary or authentic 
history. It should be remarked, however, that they have never once 
attempted, like Shakspeare, the historical drama, founded upon the 
annals of their own country, though they have freely used materials 
derived from Roman chronicles — as in their tragedy of the False One., 
in which they seem to have intended to try their strength against 
jf^ulius Ccesar ; and from the legendary history of the middle ages, 
as in Rollo, Thierry a?id Theodoret., and other pieces. They are sin- 
gularly happy in the delineation of noble and chivalrous feeling, the 
love and friendship of young and gallant souls ; and their numerous 
portraits of valiant veterans may be pronounced unequalled. As exam- 
ples of the former I may cite the personages of Philaster, of Arbaces, 
of Palamon and Arcite, of Areas in the Loyal Subject., and, above all, 
of Caratach in the tragedy of Bonduca. They possess the art of ren- 
dering a character vicious, and even criminal, without making it for- 
feit all claims to our sympathy; and thus exhibit a true sense of 
humanit3% A striking example of this is the erring but generous hero 
of A King atid No King. Their pathos, though frequently exhibited, 
is rather tender than deep : among the most striking instances of this 
I may refer to the Maid's Tragedy., one of their most admired and elab- 
orate works. The grief of Aspasia and the despair of Evadne are 
worked up to a high pitch of tragic emotion. In the Two Noble Kins- 
men, the subject of which is borrowed from the Knigkfs Tale of Chau- 
cer, the dignity of chivalric friendship is portraj^ed with the highest 
and most heroic spirit. In this play the scenes exhibiting the love and 
madness of the Gaoler's Daughter show an evident imitation of the 
character of Ophelia ; and there can be no higher praise to Beaumont 
and Fletcher than to confess that they come out of the contest beaten 
indeed, but not disgraced. Excellent too are they in pictures of simple 
tenderness and sorrow : there are few things in dramatic literature more 
pathetic than the character and death of the little heroic Prince Hengo 
in the tragedy of Botiduca. But it is perhaps in their pieces of mixed 
sentiment, containing comic matter intermingled with romantic and 
elevated incidents, that Beaumont and Fletcher's genius shines out in 
its full effulgence. It is on such occasions that we see them rise with- 
out effort and sink without meanness. Perhaps no better examples of 
this — the most charming — phase of their peculiar talent can be select- 
td than the comedies of the Elder Brother, Rule a Wife and Have a 
Wife, Beggars' Busk, and the Sj>anis/i Curate. In the third-mentioned 


piece the romantic and the farcical intrigues are combined in a most 
masterly manner, Avhile in the first and second the force of innate worth 
and courage is made to shine out brilliantly amid the most apparently 
adverse circumstances. In the more violently farcical inti-igues and 
characters, such as are to be found in the Little French La-ojyey, the 
IVomati-kater, the Humorous Lteutefiant, the Scornful Lady, Wit at 
Several Weapons, and the like, we willingly forget the eccentricity, or 
even absurdity, of the idea, in consideration of the inexhaustible series 
of laughable extravagancies in which it is made to develop itself. Such 
extravagancies are very different from the dry, persevering, analytical 
method in which Jonson works out to its very last dregs the exhibition 
of one of those " humors " which he so delighted to portray — a pro- 
cess which may almost be called scientific, like the destructive distilla- 
tion of the chemist, leaving nothing behind but a caput juortuum. The 
fools and grotesques of Beaumont and Fletcher are "lively, audible, 
and full of vent; " and the authors seem to enjoy the amusement of 
heaping up absurdity upon absurdity, out of the very abundance of 
their humorous conception. The language in which the poet clothes 
their droll extravagancies is often highly figurative, full of imagery, 
and of a rich and generous music; sometimes the simple change of a 
few words will transform one of these passages of ludicrous and j-et 
picturesque exaggeration into a noble outburst of serious poetry. 
Some of the pieces of Beaumont and Fletcher furnish us with a store 
of curious antiquarian and literary materials : thus the excellent roman- 
tic play of Beggars' Bush contains, in the humorous scenes where the 
"mumping" fraternity is introduced, valuable materials illustrating 
that singular subject the sla?ig dialect, or the professional jargon of 
thieves, beggars, and such like offscourings of society ; and it is curious 
to see how long much of this argot has been in existence, and how 
slight are the changes it has undergone. In the same way the fantastic 
extravaganza of the Kfiight of the Burning Pestle is an absolute store- 
house preserving a multitude of popular chivalric legends and frag- 
ments, sometimes beautiful and always interesting, of ancient English 
ballad poetry'. In a good many passages of Fletcher we meet with 
evident parodies or caricatures of scenes and speeches of other drama- 
tists, and particularly of Shakspeare, in which latter case the interest 
of such passages is of course very high ; but it must be remembered 
that such caricatures or parodies are marked by a playful spirit, and 
bear no trace of malignity or envy. Examples of this will be found in 
the play I have just mentioned, in the droll, pathetic speech on the 
installation of Clause as King of the Gypsies, an evident and good- 
natured jest at Cranmer's speech in the last scene of Henry VIII. 
Many others might be adduced. The pastoral drama of the Faithful 
Shepherdess is unquestionably one of the most exquisite combinations 
of delicate and tender sentiment with description of nature and Ij'rical 
music that the English or any other literature can boast. Originally 
imitated from the Italian, this mixture of the eclogue and the drama forms 
a peculiar subdivision of poetry. Though the characters, sentiments, 

A. D. 1584-1640.] MASSINGER. 161 

language, and incidents have little relation to real life, the charm of 
such idyllic compositions, from the days of Theocritus to those of 
Guarini and Tasso, hag always been felt; and the refined ideal and 
half-mythologic beauty of the " fabled life" of Tempe seems to gratify 
that craving of the imagination which makes us all hunger after some- 
thing purer, sweeter, and more innocent than the atmosphere of our 
ordinary " working-day world. "^ The pictures of nature which crowd 
this exquisite Arcadian drama have never been surpassed for their truth, 
their delicac3\ and the melody of their expression ; and it is not the 
least glory of Beaumont and Fletcher that in this exquisite poem they 
are the victorious rivals of Ben Jonson, whose delicious fragment of the 
Sad She;pherd w2iQ undovibtedly suggested by the drama I am speaking 
of; while Fletcher also furnished to Milton the first prototype of one 
of the most inimitable of his works — the pastoral drama of Comus. ■ -■ 

§ 5. Of the personal history of Philip Massinger (1584-1640) little 
is known. This excellent poet was born in 1584, and died, apparently 
\Q,ry poor, in 1640. His birth was that of a gentleman, his education 
good, and even learned ; for though his stay in the University of Ox- 
ford, which he entered in 1602, was not longer than two years, his 
works prove, by the uniform elegance and refined dignity of their dic- 
tion, and by the peculiar fondness with which he dwells on classical 
allusions, that he v/as intimately penetrated with the finest essence of 
the great classical writers of antiquity. His theatrical life, extending 
from 1604 to his death, appears to have been an uninterrupted succes- 
sion of struggle, disappointment, and distress ; and we possess one 
touching document proving how deep and general was that distress in 
the dramatic profession of the time. It is a letter written to Henslowe, 
the manager of the Globe Theatre, in the joint names of Massinger, 
Field, and Daborne, all poets of considerable popularity, imploring the 
loan of an insignificant sum to liberate them from a debtor's prison. Like 
most of his fellow-dramatists, Massinger frequently wrote in partner- 
ship with other playwrights, the names of Dekker, Field, Rowley, 
Middleton, and others being often foimd in conjunction with his. We 
possess the titles of about thirty-seven plays either entirely or partially 
written by Massinger, of which number, however, only eighteen are 
now extant, the remainder having been lost or destroyed. These works 
are tragedies, comedies, and romantic dramas partaking of both char- 
acters. The finest of them are the following : the Fatal Dowry, the 
Unnatural Combat, the Rotnan Actor, and the Duke of Milan, in the 
first category ; the Bondman, the Maid of Honor, and the Picture, in 
the third ; and the Old Laxv and A New Way to Pay Old Debts in the 
second. The qualities which distinguish this noble writer are an 
extraordinary dignity and elevation of moral sentiment, a singular 
power of delineating the soirows of pure and lofty minds exposed to 
unmerited suffering, cast down but not humiliated by misfortune. In 
these lofty delineations it is impossible not to trace the reflection of 
Massinger's own high but melancholy spirit. Female purity and devo- 
tion he has painted with great skill ; and his plays exhibit many scenes 


in which he has ventured to sound the mysteries of the deepest pas- 
sions, as in the Fatal Do^ury, and the Duke of Milan, the subject of 
the latter having some resemblance with the terrible storj of Mariamne. 
It was unfortunately indispensable, in order to* please the mixed audi- 
ences of those days, that comic and farcical scenes should be introduced 
in every piece; and for comedy and pleasantry Massinger had no apti- 
tude. This portion of his works is in every case contemptible for 
stupid buffoonery, as well as odious for loathsome indecency ; and the 
coarseness and obscenity of such passages forms so painful a contrast 
■with the general elegance and purity of Massinger's tone and language 
that w'e are driven to the supposition of his having had recourse to 
other hands to supply this obnoxious matter in obedience to the popular 
taste. Massinger's style and versification are singularly sweet and 
noble. No writer of that daj- is so free from archaisms and obscurities ; 
and perhaps there is none in whom more constantly appear all the force, 
harmony, and dignity of which the English language is susceptible. 
From many passages we may draw the conclusion that Massinger was a 
fervent Catholic. The Virgin Alartyr'is indeed a Catholic mystery; and 
in many plays — as, for example, the Renegado — he has attributed to 
Romanist confessors, and even to the then unpopular Jesuits, the most 
amiable and Christian virtues. If we desire to characterize Massinger 
in one sentence, we may say that dignity, tenderness, and grace are 
the qualities in which he excels. ""* 

§ 6. If Massinger, among the Elizabethan dramatists, be peculiarly 
the poet of moral dignity and tenderness, John Ford (1586-1639) must 
be called the great painter of unhappy love. This passion, viewed 
under all its aspects, has furnished the almost exclusive subject matter 
of his plays. He was born in 1586, and died in 1639; ^^^ does not 
appear to have been a professional writer, but to have followed the 
employment of the law. He began his dramatic career by joining with 
Dekker in the production of the touching tragedy of the Witch of Ed- 
monton, in which popular superstitions are skilfully combined with a 
deeply-touching story of love and treachery; and the works attributed 
to him are not numerous..^ Besides the above piece he wrote the trage- 
dies of the Brother and Sister, the Broken Heart (beyond all com- 
parison his most powerful work, a graceful historical drama on the 
subject of Perkin Warbeck), and the following romantic or tragi-comic 
pieces : the Lover'' s Melaticholy, Love's Sacrifice, the Fancies, Chaste 
and Noble, and the Ladfs Trial. His personal character, if we may 
judge from slight allusions found in contemporary writings, seems 
to have been sombre and retiring; and in his works sweetness and n^ 
pathos are carried to a higher pitch than in any other dramatist. In* j 
the terrible play of the Brother and Sister the subject is love of the^ 
most unnatural and criminal kind ; and yet Ford fails not to render his"^ 
chief personages, however we may deplore and even abhor their crime, 
objects of our sympathy and pity. In the Broken Heart wo, have in the 
noble Penthea, in Orgilus, Ithocles, and Calantha, four phases of un- 
happy passion ; and in the scenes between Penthea and her cruel but 

A. D. 1586-1639.] FORD. WEBSTER. 163 

repentant brother, between Penthea and the Princesfj (in which the 
dying victim makes her will in such fantastic but deeply-touching 
terms), and last of all in the tremendous accumulation of moral suf- 
fering with which the piece concludes, we cannot but recognize in Ford 
r. master of dramatic effect. His lyre has but few tones, but his music 
makes up in intensity for what it wants in variety ; and at present we 
can hardly understand how any audience could ever have borne the 
harrowing up of their sensibilities by such repeated strokes of pathos. 
Ford, like the other great dramatists of that era of giants, never shrank 
from dealing with the darkest, the most mysterious enigmas of our 
moral nature. His verse and dialogue are even somewhat monotonous 
in their sweet and plaintive melody, and are marked by a great richness 
of classical allusion. His comic scenes are even more worthless and 
offensive than those of Massinger. One proof of the consummate 
mastery which Ford possessed over the whole gamut of love-sentiment 
is his skill in making attractive the characters of unsuccessful suitors, 
in proof of which may be cited Orgilus and the noble Malfato. 

§ 7. But perhaps the most powerful and original genius among the 
Shakspearian dramatists of the second order is John Webster. His 
terrible and funereal Muse was Death ; his wild imagination revelled in 
images and sentiments which bi-eathe, as it were, the odor of the char- 
nel : his plays are full of pictures recalling with fantastic variety all 
associations of the weakness and futility of human hopes and interests, 
and dark questionings of our future destinies. His literary physiog- 
nomy has something of that dark, bitter, and woful expression which 
makes us thrill in the portraits of Dante. The number of his known < 
works is very small : the most celebrated among them is the tragedy of 
the Duchess of Ma If y (1623) ; but others are not inferior to that strange 
piece in intensity of feeling and savage grimness of plot and treat- 
ment. Besides the above we possess Guise, or the Massacre of France, 
in which the St. Barthelemy is, of course, the main action, the Devils 
Lavj Case, the White Devil, founded on the crimes and sufferings of 
Vittoria Corombona, Afpius and Virginia ; and we thus see that in the 
majority of his subjects he worked by preference on themes Avhich 
offered a congenial field for his portraiture of the darker passions and 
of the moral tortures of their victims. In selecting such revolting 
themes as abounded in the black annals of medijEval Italy, Webster 
followed the peculiar bent of his great and morbid genius ; in the treat- 
ment of these subjects we find a strange mixture of the horrible with 
the pathetic. In his language there is an extraordinary union of com- 
plexity and simplicity : he loves to draw his illustrations not only from 
*' skulls, and graves, and epitaphs," but also from the most attractive 
and picturesque objects in nature, and his occasional intermingling of 
the deepest and most innocent emotion and of the most exquisite 
touches of natural beauty produces the effect of the daisy springing 
up amid the festering mould of a graveyard. Like many of his con- 
temporaries, he knew the secret of expressing the highest passion 
through the most familiar images ; and the dirges and funeral songs 


which he has frequently introduced into his pieces possess, as Charles 
Lamb eloquently expresses it, that intensity of feeling which seems to 
resolve itself into the very elements they contemplate. His dramas 
are generally composed in mingled prose and verse; and it is possible 
that he may have had a share in the production of many other pieces 
besides those I have enumerated above. 

§ 8. As the dramatic form was the predominant tj'pe of popular 
literature at this splendid period, the student must expect to be bewil- 
dered hy the great though subordinate glory of a multitude of minor 
lights of the theatrical heaven, whose genius our space will enable us 
to analyze but in a very rapid and cursory manner. The works of 
these playwrights, each of whom has, when closely examined, his 
peculiar traits, have, however, such a strong family resemblance both 
in their merits and defects, that this cursory appreciation will not lead 
the reader into any considerable error; one star of the bright constel- 
lation may somewhat differ from another in glory, but the general 
character and composition of their rays are the same. Chapman, Dek- 
ker, Middleton, and Marston are all remarkable for their fertility and 
luxuriance. George Chapman, who has been previously mentioned 
as the translator of Homer (p. 85), is, however, more admirable for 
his lofty, classical spirit, and for the power with which he communi- 
cated the rich coloring of romantic poetry to the forms borrowed by 
his learning from Greek legend and history. Thomas Dekker, one 
of the most inexhaustible of the literary workers of his age, though he 
generally appears as a fellow-laborer with other dramatists, yet in the 
few pieces attributed to his unassisted pen shows great elegance of 
language and deep tenderness of sentiment. Thomas Middleton is 
admired for a certain wild and fantastic fancy which delights in por- 
traying scenes of witchcraft and supernatural agencj^ John ISIarston, 
on the contrary, deserves applause less by a purely dramatic quality of 
genius than by a lofty and satiric tone of invective in which he lashes 
the vices and follies of mankind, and in particular the neglect of learn- 
ing. Nor can he who would make acquaintance with the dramatic 
wealth of this marvellous age pass without attention tl>e works of 
Taylor, Tourneur, Rowley, Broome, and Thomas Heywood. Tourneur 
has some resemblance, in the sombre and gloomy tone of his works, 
to the terrible genius of Webster, while Broome is remarkable for the 
immense number of pieces in whose composition he had a greater or 
less share; an observation which may also be applied to Heywood. 
This latter poet must not be confounded with his namesake John, who 
was one of the earliest dramatic authors, and flourished in the reigns 
of Henry VIII. and Mary (see p. 112). Thomas Heywood exhibits a 
graceful fancj', and one of his plays, A Wofnan Killed 'with Ki?idness, 
is among the most touching of the period. Broome was originally 
Ben Jonson's domestic servant, but afterwards attained considerable 
success upon the stage. 

§ 9. The dramatic era of Elizabeth and James closes with James 
Shirley (1594-1666), whose comedies, though in many respects bear- 

A. D. 1642.] SIIIRLEY. 165 

ing the same general character as the works of his great predecessors, 
gtill seem the earnest of a new period. He excels in the delineation of 
gay and fashionable society, and his dramas are more laudable for ease, 
nature, and animation than for profound tracings of human nature, 01 
for vivid portraiture of character. He passed through the whole of the 
Civil War, the Commonwealth, and the Revolution, and is the link 
which connects the great dramatic school of Shakspeare with the verj 
different form of the drama which revived at the Restoration in 1660. 
In proportion as the Puritan party grew in influence and acrimony, in 
precisely equal degree grew the hostility to the theatre; and at last, 
when fanaticism was rampant, the theatre was formally and legally 
suppressed, the play-houses were pulled down by bigoted mobs of citi- 
zens and soldiers, and the performance of plays, nay, the simple wit- 
nessing of theatrical representations, made a penal offence. This took 
place September 2, 1642, and the dramatic profession may be regarded as 
remaining under the frown of government during about fourteen years 
from that date, when the theatre was revived, but revived, as we shall 
afterwards see, under a completely different form, and with totally 
different tendencies, moral as well as literary. Of the nature and 
causes of this dramatic revolution, not less profound than the great 
political and social revolution of which it was a symptom and a result, 
I shall speak in another place. 

§ 10. The Elizabethan drama is the most wonderful and majestic 
outburst of genius that any age has yet seen. It is characterized by 
marked peculiarities ; an intense richness and fertility of imagination, 
such as was natural in an age when the stores of classical antiquity 
were suddenly thrown open to the popular mind ; and this richness and 
splendor of fancy are combined with the greatest force and vigor of 
familiar expression. We have an intimate union of the common and 
the refined, the boldest flights of fancy and the most scrupulous fidelity 
to actual reality. The great object of these dramatists being to pro- 
duce intense impressions upon a miscellaneous audience, they sacri- 
ficed everything to strength and nature. The circumstance that most 
of these writers were actors tended to give their productions the pecu- 
liar tone they exhibit : to this we must attribute some of their gravest 
defects as well as many of their most inimitable beauties — their occa- 
sional coarseness, exaggeration, and buffoonery, as well as that instinc- 
tive knowledge of efect which never abandons them. But besides 
being actors, they were, almost without exception, men of educated 
and cultivated minds ; and thus their writings never fail to show a 
peculiar aroma of style and language, which is perceptible even in the 
least fragment of their dialogue. They were also men, men of strong 
passions and often of irregular lives ; and what they felt strongly, and 
what they had seen in their wild lives, they boldly transferred to their 
writings ; which thus reflect not only the faithful images of human 
character and passion under every conceivable condition, not only the 
strongest as well as the most delicate coloring of fancy and imagina- 
tion, but the profoundest and simplest precepts derived from the prac- 



tical experience of life. It should never be forgotten that thej all 
resemble Shakspeare in the general texture of their language and the 
prevailing principles of their mode of dramatic treatment, and only 
differ from him in the degree to which they possess separately those, 
high and varied qualities w^hich he alone of all human beings carried 
to an almost superhuman degree of intensity. 



AKTHONY Munpay (1553-1033) was said by 
Meres to be the "best plotter" among the comic 
poets. Fourteen plays were written either partly or 
wholly by him. The first of importance was Val- 
entine and Orson, published in 1503. Drayton and 
others assisted him in Sir John OMcastle, which 
was referred by some to Shakspeare. In 1601 lie 
published Robert Earl of Huntingdon's Downfall, 
and Robert Earl of Huntingdon's Death, in the last 
of which he was assisted by Chettle. His writings 
extended over the period 1580-1621. He died August 
10, 1033, and is styled on his monument in St. 
Stephen's, Colcmau Street, " citizen and draper of 

Henut Chettle was a most industrious writer 
of plays. Thirty-eight are said to bear an impress 
from his hand. With Ilaughton and Dekker he 
produced Patient Grissil in 1003. According to Mr. 
Collier he wrote for the stage before 1592. Three 
only of his plays have been preserved. He wrote 
too largely to produce works of more than passing 

Geoege Cooke produced Green's Tu qvoque in 
1599, and was the author of fifty epigrams. 

TnOMAS Nabbes wrote in the reign of Charles I. 
A third-rate poet, but original. None of his dra/- 
matic pieces are extant, tho chief of which were 

Microcosmus, Spring's Glory, Bride. Charlei the 
First, a tragedj', and Swetnam, a comedy, are 
proved not to be his. Nabbes was secretary to a me 
noble or prelate near Worcester. He also wrote a 
continuation of Knolles's History of the Turks. 

Thomas Randolph (180.5-1634), bom near 
Daventry. A scholar and poet of some worth, but 
whose pieces have sunk into an obscurity ill de- 
served. He studied at Cambridge, and through too 
great excess shortened his life, and died at the early 
age of twenty-nine. His chief plays were The 
Muses' Looking- Glass, and The Jealous Lovers. 

Nathaniel Field, in the reigns of James I. 
and Charles I., wrote A Woman 's a Weathercock, 
1012; Amends for Ladies, 1618. 

John Day wrote between 1602 and 1654. Studied 
at Caius College, Cambridge, was associated with 
Rowley, Dekker, Chettle, and Marlowe, and is said 
to have been the subject of the satirical lines on the 
flight of Day. His chief works were Bristol Tra- 
gedy, 1602, Law Tricks, 1608, and the Blind Beggar 
of Bethnal Green, 1659. 

Henky Glapthobxe lived in the reign of 
Charles I. Winstanley calls him "one of the 
chiefest dramatic poets of that age." There is much 
ease and elegance in his verse, but little force and 
passion. His plays numbered nine, five of which 
are preserved. Albertua Wallenstein, 1634, Th» 
Hollander, I&IO, &c. 




§ 1. Characteristics of the so-called metaphysical poets. § 2. Wither and 
QtJARLES. § 3. Herbert and Crashaw. § 4. Herrick, Suckling, and 
Lovelace. § 5. Browne and Habington. § 6. Waller. § 7. Davenant 
and Denham. § 8. Cowley. 

§ 1. The seventeenth century is one of the most momentous in Eng- 
lish history. A large portion of it is occupied by an immense fermen- 
tation, political and religious, through which were worked out many of 
those institutions to which the country owes its grandeur and its hap- 
piness. The Civil War, the Commonwealth, the Protectorate, and the 
Restoration, fill up the space extending from 1630 to 1660, while its 
termination was signalized by another revolution, which, though peace- 
ful and bloodless, was destined to exert a perhaps even more beneficial 
influence on the future fortunes of the country. In its literary aspect 
this agitated epoch, though not marked by that marvellous outburst of 
creative power which dazzles us in the reigns of Elizabeth and her 
successor, yet has left deep traces on the turn of thought and expression 
of the English people ; and confining ourselves to the department of 
poetry, and excluding the solitary example in Milton of a poet of the 
first class, who will form the subject of a separate study, we may say 
that this period introduced a class of excellent writers in whom the 
intellect and the fancy play a greater part than sentiment or passion. 
Ingenuity predominates over feeling; and while Milton owed much to 
many of these poets, whom I have ventured, in accordance with John- 
son, to style the metaphysical class, nevertheless we must allow that 
they had much to do with generating the so-called correct and artificial 
manner which distinguishes the classical writers of the age of William, 
Anne, and the first George. I propose to pass in rapid review, and 
generally according to chronological order, the most striking names of 
this department, extending from about 1600 to 1700. 

§ 2. George Wither (158S-1667) and Francis Quarles (1592- 
1644) are a pair of poets whose writings have a considerable degree of 
resemblance in manner and subject, and whose lives were similar in 
misfortune. Wither took an active part in the Civil War, attained 
command under the administration of Cromwell, and had to undergo 
severe persecution and long imprisonment. His most important work 
is a collection of poems, of a partially pastoral character, entitled the 
Shepherd's Hunting, in which the reader will find frequent rural de- 
scriptions of exquisite fancifulness and beauty, together with a sweet 
and pure tone of moral reflection. The vice of Wither, as it was gen- 
erally of the literature of his age, was a passion for ingenious turns 


and unexpected conceits, which bear the same relation to really beauti- 
ful thoughts that plays upon words do to true wit. He is also often 
singularly deficient in taste, and frequently deforms graceful images by 
the juxtaposition of what is merely quaint, and is sometimes even 
ignoble. Many of his detached lyrics are extremely beautiful, and the 
verse is generally flowing and melodious ; but in reading his best pas- 
sages we are always nervously apprehensive of coming at any moment 
upon something which will jar upon our sj'mpathy. He wrote, among 
many other works, a curious series of Emblems^ in which his puritani- 
cal enthusiasm revels in a system of moral and theological analogies at 
least as far-fetched as poetical. Qiiarles, though a Royalist as ardent as 
Wither was a devoted Republican, exhibits many points of intellectual 
resemblance to Wither; to whom, however, he was far inferior in 
poetical sentiment. One of his most popular works is a collection of 
Divine Emblems, in which moral and religious precepts are inculcated 
in short poems of a most quaint character, and illustrated by engravings 
filled with what may be called allegory run mad. For example, the 
text, " Who will deliver me from the body of this death.?" is accom- 
panied by a cut representing a diminutive human figure, typifying the 
soul, peeping through the ribs of a skeleton as from behind the bars of 
a dungeon. This taste for extravagant j^et prosaic allegory was bor- 
rowed from the laborious ingenuity of the Dutch and Flemish moralists 
and divines; and Otto Van Veen, the teacher of Rubens, is answerable 
for some of the most extravagant pictorial absurdities of this nature. 
Qiiarles, however, in spite of his quaintness, is not destitute of the 
feeling of a true poet; and many of his pieces breathe an intense 
spirit of religious fervor. In spite of their antagonism in politics, 
Quarles and Wither bear a strong resemblance : the one may be desig- 
nated as the most roundhead of the Cavaliers, the other as the most 
cavalier of the Roundheads. 

§ 3. If Qiiarles and Wither represent ingenuity carried to extrava- 
gance, George Herbert (1593-1632) and Richard Crashaw (circa 
1620-1650) exhibit the highest exaltation of religious sentiment, and 
are both worthy of admiration, not only as Christian poets, but as good 
men and pious priests. George Herbert was born in 1593, and at first 
rendered himself remarkable by the graces and accomplishments of the 
courtly scholar; but afterwards entering the Church, exhibited, as 
parish priest of Bemerton in Wiltshi'-e, all the virtues which can adorn 
the country parson — a character he has beautifully described in a prose 
treatise under that title. He died in 1632, and was known among his 
contemporaries as " holy George Herbert." He was certainly one of 
the most perfect characters which the Anglican Church has nourished in 
her bosom. His poems, principally religious, are generally short lyrics, 
combining pious aspiration with frequent and beautiful pictures of 
nature. He decorates the altar with the sweetest and most fragrant 
flowers of fancy and of wit. Herbert's poems are not devoid of that 
strange and perverted ingenuity with which I have reproached Qiiarles 
and Wither ; but the tender unction which reigns throughout his lyrics 

A. D. 1520-1674-] CRASHAW. HERRI CK. LOVELACE. 1G9 

serves as a kind of antidote to the poison of perpetual conceits. In his 
most successful efforts he has almost attained the perfection of de- 
votional poetrj', a calm and jet ardent glow, a well-governed fervor, 
which seem peculiarly to belong to the Church of which he was a 
minister, equally removed from the pompous and childish enthusiasm 
of Catholic devotion and the gloomy mj-sticism of Calvinistic piety. 
His best collection of sacred lyrics is entitled the TemJ>le, or Sacred 
Poems and Private Ej'aculaiiojis. 

Cj'ashaw's short life was glowing throughout with religious enthu- 
siasm. The date of his birth is not exactly known, but probably was 
about 1620; and he<iied, a canon of the Cathedral of Loretto, in 1650. 
He was brought up in the Anglican Church, and received a learned 
education at Oxford ; but during the Puritan troubles he embraced tlie 
Romish faith, and carried to the ancient Church a singularly sensitive 
mind, very extensive erudition, and a gentle but intense devotional 
mysticism. He had been emploj^ed in negotiation by Charles I., and 
seems to have possessed among his contemporaries a high reputation 
for ability. The mystical tendency of his mind was increased by his 
misfortunes and by his change of religion, and in his later works we 
find the fervor of his pietism reaching a pitch little short of extrava- 
gance. He is said to have been an ardent admirer of the ecstatic writings 
of St. Theresa ; and that union of the sensuous fervor of human affec- 
tion with the wildest flights of theological rapture which we see in the 
writings of the great Catholic mystics, is faithfully reproduced in 
Crashaw. That he possessed an exquisite fancy, great melody of verse, 
and that power over the reader which nothing can replace, and which 
springs from deep earnestness, no one can deny. The reader will never 
regret the time he may have employed in making some acquaintance 
with Crashaw's poetry, among the most favorable specimens of which 
I may cite the Steps to tJie Temple, and the beautiful description entitled 
Music's Dtiel, borrowed from the celebrated Conte7itio7i between a 
Nightijigale and a Musician^ composed by Famianus Strada, of which 
there is a most exquisite imitation in Ford's play of the Lover's Melan- 

§ 4. Love, romantic loyalty, and airy elegance find their best repre- 
sentatives in three charming poets whose works may be examined 
under one general head. These are Robert Herrick (1591-1674), 
Sir John Suckling (1609-1641), and Sir Richard Lovelace (161S- 
1658). The first of these writers, after beginning his career among the 
brilliant but somewhat debauched literary society of the town and the 
theatre, took orders, and, like Herbert, passed the latter portion of his 
life in the obscurity of a country parish. lirilike Herbert, however, he 
continued to exhibit in his writings, after this change of life, the same 
graceful but voluptuous spirit which distinguished his early writings ; 
and unlike the holy pastor of Bemerton, he seems never to have ceased 
repining at the fate which obliged him to exchange the gay conversa- 
tion of poets and wits for the unsympathizing companionship of the 
rural '* salvages " among whom he was condemned to live. His poems 


are all Ija-ic, generally songs; and love and wine fjrm their invariable 
topics. In Herrick we find the most unaccountable mixture of sensual 
coarseness with exquisite refinement. Like the Faun of the ancient 
sculpture, his Muse unites the bestial and the divine. In fancy, in 
genius, in poAver over the melody of verse, he is never deficient ; and it 
is easy to see that in his union of tenderness with richness of imagina- 
tion he had been inspired by the lovely pastoral and Ij^ric movements 
of Fletcher and of Heywood. Suckling and Lovelace are the types of 
the Cavalier poet: both underwent persecution, and were reduced to 
poverty. Lovelace was long and often imprisoned for his adherence to 
the loyal doctrines of his party, and is said to haVe died in abject dis- 
tress. Both were men of elegant if not profound scholarship, and both 
e?;emplify the spirit of loyalty to their king, and gallantry to the ladies. 
Many of Suckling's love songs are equal, if not supei'ior, to the most 
beautiful "examples of that mixture of gay badinage and tender if not 
very deep-felt devotion which characterizes French courtly and erotic 
poetry in the seventeenth century ; and his thoughts are expressed with 
that cameo-like neatness and refinement of expression which is the 
great merit of the minor French literature from ^larot to Bcranger. 
But his most exquisite production is his Ballad tipon a Weddings in 
which, assuming the character of a rustic, he describes the marriage of 
a fashionable couple. Lord Broghill and Lady Margaret Howard, In 
this inimitable gern, if we exclude one or two allusions of a somewhat 
too warm complexion, the reader will find the perfection of grace and 
elegance, rendered only the more piquant by the well-assumed naTvete 
of the stj'le. Lovelace is more serious and earnest than Suckling : his 
lyrics breathe rather, devoted loyalty than the half-passionate, half- 
jesting love-fancy of his rival. Some of his most charming lyrics were 
written in prison ; and the beautiful lines to Althea, composed when 
the author Avns closely confined in the Gate-house at Westminster, 
remind us of the caged bird which learns its sweetest and most plain- 
tive notes when deprived of its woodland liberty. 

The gay and airy spirit which we see running through the minor 
poetry of this epoch maybe traced back to a period considerably earlier 
— to the contemporaries of Ben Jonson and the great dramatists. The 
pleasant and facetious Bishop Corbet (p, 86), Carew, one of the 
ornaments of the court of Charles I, (p, 86), and even Drummond 
(p. 87), though the genius of the latter is of a more serious turn, all 
exhibit a tendency to intellectual ingenuity which was afterwards grad- 
ually divested of that somewhat pedantic character which Drummond, 
for example, had imbibed from his models, the masters of the Italian 
sonnet. It is curious to observe that the Scots should in this time have 
distinguished themselves in their writings by a learned and artifixially 
classical spirit strangely at variance with the unadorned graces of the 
" native woodnotes wild " that thrill so sweetly through their national 
and popular songs. This learned character was perhaps derived from, 
as it is chiefl^^ exemplified in, Buchanan, one of the purest and most 
truly classical writers in Latin verse among those who have appeared 

A. D. 1590-1687.] BROWNE. EABINGTON, WALLER. 171 

since the destruction of Roman literature (p. 107). The Scots have 
generally been a learned people, and much of their national annals 
was written in Latin, sometimes in Latin of great elegance. This may 
perhaps be in some degree attributed to the fact that their vernacular 
dialect, when they employed it, was, though certainly far too cultivated 
to be stigmatized as 2i patots of English, yet at all events no better than 
a provincial mode of speech; and the naTvete which is charming in a 
song or poem runs great risk of exciting contempt when coloring his- 
torical or philosophical matter. 

§ 5. William Browne (1590-1645) was the author, besides a large 
number of graceful lyrics and shorter poems, of a work entitled Bri- 
tanjiia's Pastorals, undoubtedly suggested, as far as their style and 
treatment are concerned, by the example of Spenser and Giles Fletcher. 
They contain much agreeable description of rural life, but they are 
chargeable with that ineradicable defect which accompanies all idyllic 
poetry, however beautiful may be its details, namely, the want of prob- 
ability in the scenes and characters, when the reader tests them by a 
reference to his own experience of what rustic life really is. His verse 
is almost uniformly well-knit, easy, and harmonious ; and the attentive 
reader could select many passages from this poet, now little read, ex- 
hibiting great felicitj^ of thought and expression. 

William Habington (1605-1654) is a poet of about the same calibre 
as Browne, though his writings are principally devoted to love. He 
celebrates, with much ingenuity and occasional grace, the charms and 
virtues of a lady whom he calls Castara, and who — a fate rare in the 
annals of the love of poets — was not only his ideal mistress, but his 
wife. Habington, like Crashaw, was a Catholic; and his poems are 
free from that immorality which so often stains the graceful fancies of 
the poets of this age. Though generally devoted to love, Habington's 
collected works exhibit some of a moral and religious tendency. 

§ 6. The most prominent and popular figures of the period we are 
now considering, and the writers who exerted the strongest influence 
on their own time, I have reserved till the end of this chapter : they are 
Waller and Cowley, to which may be added the secondary but still 
important names of Denham and Davenant. 

Edmund Waller (1605-1687) was unquestionably one of tlae leading 
characters in the literary and political history of England during the 
momentous period embraced by his long life. He was of ancient and 
dignified family, of great wealth, and a man of varied accomplishments 
and fascinating manners ; but his character was timid and selfish, and 
his political principles fluctuated with every change that menaced 
either his safety or his interest. He sat for many years in Parliament, 
and was the " darling of the House of Commons " for the readiness of 
his repartees and the originality and pleasantness of his speeches. It 
was unfortunate for a man endowed with the light talents formed to 
adorn a court to be obliged to take part in public aftairs at so serious a 
ci-isis as that of the Long Parliament, the Civil War, and the Restora- 
tion ; but Waller seems for a while to have floated scathless through 


the storms of that terrible time, trusting, like the nautilus, to the ver^ 
fragility which bears it safely among rocks and quicksands where an 
argosy would be wrecked. He exhibited repeated indications of tergi- 
versation in those difficult times, professing adherence to Puritan and 
Republican doctrines while really sympathizing with the Court partj'; 
and on more than, one occasion was accused of something very like 
distinct military treachery. Even his consummate adroitness did not 
always succeed in securing impunity ; and in 1643 he was convicted by 
the House of a plot to betray London to the King, and narrowly 
escaped a capital punishment, being imprisoned, fined 10,000/., and 
obliged to exile himself for some time, which he passed in France. 
His conduct at this juncture is said to have been mean and abject. 
Though distantly related by birth to the great and good Hampden, and 
to Oliver Cromwell himself, whom he has celebrated in one of his 
finest poems. Waller was ready to hail with enthusiasm every new 
change in the political world ; and he panegyrized Cromwell and 
Charles II. with equal fervor, though not with equal eftect. He lived to 
see the accession of James II., whose policy he prophesied would lead 
to the fatal results that afterwards occurred. During the whole of his 
life Waller was the idol of societj', but neither much trusted nor much 
respected — a pliant, versatile, adroit partisan, joining and deserting all 
causes in succession, and steering his bark with address through the 
dangers of the time. In his own day, and in the succeeding generation, 
his poetry enjoyed the highest reputation. He was said to have carried 
to perfection the art of expressing graceful and sensible ideas in the 
clearest and most harmonious language; but his example, which acted 
so powerfully on Drj'den and Pope, has ceased to exert the same in- 
fluence, which it owed rather to the good sense and good taste by which 
Waller avoids faults than to the ardor and enthusiasm which can alone 
attain beauties. Regular, reasonable, well-balanced, well-proportioned, 
the lines of Waller always gratify the judgment, but never touch the 
heart or fire the imagination. Here and there in his works may be 
found strokes of happy ingenuity which we know not whether to attrib- 
ute more to accident or to genius; as in the passage where he laments 
the cruelty of his mistress Sacharissa (Lady Dorothy Sidney), and 
boasts that his disappointment as a lover had given him immortality 
as a poet, he makes the following delicious allusion to the fable of 
Apollo and Daphne : — 

**I caught at love, but filled my arms with bays.'* 

Most of his poems are love verses, but his panegyric on Cromwell con- 
tains many passages of great dignity and force. He was les'i felicitous 
in his longer work, the Battle of the Summer Islands, in which, in a 
half-serious, half-comic strain, he described an attack upon a stranded 
whale in the Bahamas. 

§ 7 Sir William Davenant (1605-1668), born in the same year 
with Waller, was one of the most active literary and political person- 
ages of his day. He is principally interesting to us at the present day 

A. D. i6o5-i668.] DAVENANT. DUNHAM. 173 

as being connected with the revival of the theatre after the eclipse it 
had suffered during the severe Puritan rule ; and nothing can m6re 
clearly indicate the immense change which literary taste had under- 
gone, than the fact that Davenant, who was a most ardent worshipper 
of the genius of Shakspeare and Shakspeare's mighty contemporaries, 
should, in attempting to revive their works, have found it necessary to 
alter their spirit so completely, that a reader who admires the originals 
must regard the adaptations with a feeling little less than disgust. Yet 
there can be no doubt that Davenant's veneration was sincere. He was 
long connected with the Court Theatre, and both in the dramas which he 
composed himself, and in those which he adapted and placed upon the 
stage, we see how far the taste for splendor of scenery, dances, music, 
and decoration had usurped the passion of the earlier public for truth 
and intensity in the picturing of life and nature. Declamation and 
pompous tirades had now taken the place of the ancient style of dia- 
logue, so varied, so natural, touching every key of human feeling, from 
the wildest gayety to the deepest pathos. The mechanical accessories 
of the stage had been immensely improved; actresses, young, beauti- 
ful, and skilful, usurped the place of the boys of the Elizabethan scene, 
and in every respect the stage had undergone a complete revolution. 
We see the influence of that French or classical taste which was 
brought into England hy the exiled court of Charles TI,, and which 
afterwards completely metamorphosed the character of our dramatic 
literature, which, in the time of Dryden and Congreve, was destined 
to produce much that was imposing and vigorous in tragedy and much 
that was inimitable in comedy, but which was, in all its essentials, 
something totally different from the great productions of the preceding 
era. Davenant was a most prolific author, not only in the dramatic 
department, in which his most popular productions were Aldoznnc, the 
Siege of Rhodes, the Laxv against Lovers, the Cruel Brother, and 
many others, but also as a narrative poet. He was also one of the 
most active, virulent, and unscrupulous party-writers of that period. 
There is a ridiculous story of Davenant being in the habit of giving 
out that he was a natural son of William Shakspeare by a handsome 
Oxford landlady, but neither the supposition itself nor the fact of Dav- 
enant's exhibiting such a strange, perverted kind of vanity, is at all 
deserving of credit. One of Davenant's principal non-dramatic works 
is the poem of Gondibcrt, narrating a long series of lofty and chivalric 
adventures in a dignified but somewhat monotonous manner. It is 
written in a peculiar four-lined stanza with alternate rhymes, afterwards 
employed by Dryden in his Ajinus Mirabilis. It is, however, a form 
of versification singularly unfitted for continuous narration, and its 
employment may be one cause of the neglect into which the once- 
admired work of Davenant has fallen — a neglect so complete that per- 
haps there are not ten men in England now living who have read it 

- Sir John Denham (1615-1668) was the son of the Chief Baron of 
the Exchequer in Ireland, and a supporter of Charles I. Though a 


poet of the secondary order, when regarded in connection with Cow- 
ley, one work of his, Cooper's Hill, will always occupy an important place 
in any account of the English Literature of the seventeenth century. 
This place it owes not only to its specific merits, but also in no mean 
degree to the circumstance that this poem was the first work in a pecu- 
liar department which English writers afterwards cultivated with great ~\ 
success, and which is, I believe, almost exclusively confined to our lit- "*' 
erature. This department is what may be called local or topographic 
poetry, and in it the writer chooses some individual scene as the object ;^- 
round which he is to accumulate his descriptive or contemplative pas- <-^ 
sages. Denham selected for this purpose a beautiful spot near Rich- \ 
mond on the Thames, and in the description of the scene itself, as well 
as in the reflections it suggests, he has risen to a noble elevation. Four 
lines, indeed, in which he expresses the hope that his own verse may 
possess the qualities which he attributes to the Thames, will be quoted 
again and again as one of the finest and most felicitous passages of 
verse in any language. 

§ 8. One of the most accomplished and influential writers of the 
period was Abraham Cowley (1618-1667). He exhibits one of the 
most perfect types of the ideal man of letters. He was a remarkable 
instance of intellectual precocity, for he is said to have published his 
first poems, filled with enthusiasm by the Fairy ^neen of Spenser, 
when only thirteen years of age. He received a very complete and 
learned education, partly at Oxford, and afterwards, when obliged by 
religious and political troubles to leave that academy, in the sister Uni- 
versity of Cambridge ; and he early acquired and long retained among 
his contemporaries the reputation of being one of the best scholars and 
most distinguished poets of his age. During the earlier part of his 
life he had been confidentially employed, both in England and in 
France, in the service of Charles I. and his queen, and on attaining 
middle age he determined to put in execution the philosophical project 
he had long fondly cherished, of living in rural and lettered retirement. 
He was disappointed in obtaining such a provision as he thought his 
services had deserved ; but receiving a grant of some crown leases prp- 
ducing a moderate income, he quitted London and went to reside near 
Chertsey. But his dreams of ease and tranquillity were not fulfilled; 
he was involved in continual squabbles with the tenants, from whom 
he could extort no rents ; and he speaks with constant querulousness 
of the hostility and vexations to which he was subjected. He died of 
a fever caused by imprudence and excess, but not before he had learned 
the melancholy truth that annoyances and vexations pursue us even 
into the recesses of rural obscurity. 

Cowley is highly regarded among the writers of his time both as a 
poet and an essayist. Immense and multifarious learning, well digested 
by reflection and polished into brilliancy by taste and sensibility, ren- 
ders his prose works, in which he frequently intermingles passages of 
verse, reading little less delightful than the fascinating pages of Mon- 
taigne. Cowley, like Montaigne, possesses the charm arising from the 

A. D. 1618-1667.] CO WLET. 175 

intimate union between reading and reflection, between curious erudi- 
tion and original speculation, the quaintness of the scholar and the 
practical knowledge of the man of the world. There are few writers 
so substantial as Cowley; few whose productions possess that peculiar 
attraction which grows upon the reader as he becomes older and more 
contemplative. As a poet, the reputation of Cowlej, immense in his 
own day, has much diminished, which is to be attributed to that abuse 
of intellectual ingenuity, that passion for learned, far-fetched, and 
recondite illustrations which was to a certain extent the vice of his age. 
He has very little passion or depth of sentiment; and in his love-verses 
— a kind of composition then thought obligatory on all who were 
ambitious of the name of poet — he substitutes the play of the intel- 
lect for the unaffected outpouring of the feelings. He Avas deeply versed 
both in Greek and Latin literature, and his imitations, paraphrases, 
and translations show perfect knowledge of his originals and great 
mastery over the resources of the English language. He translated the 
Odes of Anacreoii, and attempted to revive the boldness, the pictu- 
resqueness, and the fire of the Pindaric poetry; but his odes have only 
an external resemblance with those of the " Theban Eagle." They 
have the irregularity of form — only an apparent irregularity in the 
case of the Greek originals, which, it must be remembered, were writ- 
ten to be accompanied by that Greek music of whose structure nothing 
is now known ; but they have not that intense and concentrated fire 
which burns with an inextinguishable ardor, like the product of some 
chemical combustion, in the great Boeotian lyrist. Cowley seems al- 
ways on the watch to seize some ingenious and unexpected parallelism 
of ideas or images; and when the illustration is so found, the shock 
of surprise which the reader feels is rather akin to a flash of wit than 
to an electric stroke of genius. Cowley lived at the moment when the 
revolution inaugurated by Bacon was beginning to produce its first 
fruits. The Royal Society, then recently founded, was astonishing the 
world, and astonishing its own members, by the immense horizon 
opening before the bold pioneers of the Inductive Philosophy. In this 
mighty movement Cowley deeply sympathized; and perhaps the finest 
of his lyric compositions are those in which, with a grave and well- 
adorned eloquence, he proclaims the genius and predicts the triumphs 
of Bacon and his disciples in phj'sical science. 

One long epic poem of great pretension Cowley meditated but left 
unfinished. This is the Davideis, the subject of which is the suffer- 
ings and glories of the King of Israel. But this work is now complete- 
ly neglected. Biblical personages and events have rarely, with the 
solitary and sublime exception of Milton, been transported with success 
out of the majestic language of the Scripture; and it maj^ be main- 
tained, without much fear of contradiction, that the rhymed heroic 
couplet — the measure employed by Cowley — is not a form of versifi- 
cation capable of supporting the attention of the reader through a lofty 
epic narrative. The genius of Cowley was far more lyric than epic; 



[Chap. IX. 

and in his shorter compositions he exerted that influence upon the styla 
of EngHsh poetry which tended very much, during nearly two centu- 
ries, to modify it very perceptibly, and which is especially traceable in 
the writings of Dryden, Pope, and generally in the next succeeding 



William ChaMbeklayne (1610-1689), a physi- 
cian at Shaftesbury, in Dorsetshire, >vrote I'haron- 
uida, an heroic poem, in five books, which 
contains some vigorous passages, but the versifica- 
tion is rugged, and the stj'le slovenly and quaint. 
Chamberlaync is also the author of a tragi-comedy 
entitled Love's Victor)/, acted after tlie Restoration 
under the new title of Wits led by the Nose, or the 
J'oet's Revenge. 

CUAELES Cotton (1630-1687), best known as the 
friend of Izaak Walton, had an estate in Derby- 
suirc upon the river Dove, celebrated for its trout. 
lie wrote several humorous poems, and his Voyage 
to Ireland, Campbell remarks, seems to anticipate 
tlie manner of Anstey in the Balk Guide. 

He>ky VAUGnAX (1614-1605), a native of Wales, 
born in Brecknockshire, first bred to the law, which 
he afterwards relinquished for the profession of 
physic. lie published in 1651 a volume of miscel- 
laneous poems. Campbell says of him that " he is 
one. of the harshest even of the inferior order of the 
school of conceit ; but he has some scattered thoughts 
that meet our eye amid his harsh pages, like wild 
flowers on a barren heath." 

De. Henky King (1591-1669), chaplain to James 
1., and afterwards Bishop of Chichester, -wrote 
chiefly religious poetry. His thoughts are elevated, 
and his language is choice. His style is not free 
from the conceits so fashionable in the writers of 
tliis age, but the little fancies he indulges are chaste 
and fuU of beauty. 

John Cleveland (1613-1658), son of a Leices- 
tershire clergyman, distinguished himself as a sol- 

dier and poet on the king's side during the Civil 
War. In 161' he published a severe satire on tha 
Scotch ; was imprisoned in 1655, released by Crom- 
well, but died soon after. Some of his writings are 
amatory, and though conceited contain true poetry. 
It is said that Butler borrowed no little from him ia 
his ' Hudibras.' 

SlE RicnAED Fansilvave (1607-1666), brother of 
Lord Fanshawe, and secretary to Prince Rupert. 
He was made ambassador to Spain by Charles II., 
and died at Madrid. He translated Camoens' Lu- 
siad, and the Pastor Fido of Guarini. He wrote 
also some minor poems. His song, Tlie Saint's 
Encouragement, 1643, is full of clever satire, and 
all his verse is forcible, with here and there a 
touch of the true poet's beauty. 

TnoMAS Stanley (1625-1678), a native of Hert- 
fordshire, studied at Cambridge, and entered the 
Middle Temple. In 1651 he published some poems 
chiefly on the tender passion, full of beautiful 
thought and happy fancy, but marked by the too 
common quaintness of the times. 

Duchess of Xeavcastle (d. 1673), daughter of 
Sir Charles Lucas, and maid of honor to Queca 
Henrietta Maria. In 1653 she published Poems and 
Fancies — was assisted by her husbatid in many of 
her writings, according to Horace Walpole in the 
Royal and Noble Authors. Twelve folio volumes 
were issued by the industrious marquis and his wife, 
but the value of the writings is not great. 

Mrs. Kathleine Piiilii-S (1631-1664), a Cardi- 
ganshire lady, known by the name of Orinda, ex- 
ceedingly popular as a writer with her contempo- 
raries. Her style is more free than that of most of 
the poets of the age irom quaintness and coDceiU 


A. D. 1584-1656.] TUEOilOGICAL WRITERS. 177 



§ 1. Theological "Writers. Johx Hales and William Chillingworth. § 2. 
Sill Thomas Browne. ^ 3. Thomas Fuller. § 4. Jeremy Taylor. His 
Life. §5. Wis Liberty of Prophesying a.ndi oi\ier vior\s. § 6. His style com- 
pared with Spenser. § 7. Richard Baxter. The Quakers : Fox, Penn, and 

§ 1. The Civil War, which led to the temporary overthrow of the 
ancient monarchj of England, was in many respects a religious as well 
as a political contest. It' was a struggle for liberty of faith at least as 
much as for liberty of civil government. The prose literature of this 
time, therefore, as well as of a period extending considerably beyond 
it, exhibits a strong religious or theological character. The blood of 
martyrs, it has been said, is the seed of the Church ; and the alternate 
triumphs and persecutions, through which passed both the Anglican 
Church and the multiplicity of rival sects which now arose, naturally 
developed to the highest degree both the intellectual powers and the 
Christian energies of their adherents. The most glorious outburst of 
theological eloquence which the Church of England has exhibited, in 
the writings of Jeremy Taylor, Barrow, and the other great Anglican 
Fathers, was responded to by the appearance, in the ranks of the sec- 
taries, of many remarkable men, some hardly inferior in learning and 
genius to the leaders whose doctrines they opposed, while others, with 
a ruder yet more burning enthusiasm, were the founders of dissenting 
communions, as in the case of the Quakers. 

John Hales (15S4-1656), surnamed " the ever-memorable John 
Hales," was a man who enjoyed among his contemporaries an im- 
mense reputation for the vastness of his learning and the acuteness of 
his wit. He was born in 1584, and in the earlier part of his life had 
acquired, by travel and diplomatic service in foreign countries, a vast 
amount not only of literary knowledge, but practical acquaintance with 
men and aftairs : he afterwards retired to the learned obscurity of a 
fellowship of Eton College, where he passed the sad and dangerous 
years filled with civil contention. During part of this time his writings 
and opinions rendered him so obnoxious to the dominant party that 
a price was set upon his head, and he was obliged to hide, being at the 
same time reduced to the extremest privations. He for some time sub- 
sisted by the sale of his books. He died in 1656, and left behind him 
.the reputation of one of the most solid and yet acutest intellects that 
his country had produced. The greater part of his writings are con- 
troversial, treating on the politico-religious questions that then agitated 


men's minds. He had been present at the Synod of Dort, and has 
given an interesting account of the questions debated in that assembly. 
While attending its sittings as an agent for the English Church he was 
converted from the Calvinistic opinions he had hitherto held to those 
of the Episcopalian divines. Both in his controversial writings and 
in his sermons he exhibits a fine example of that rich'yet chastened 
eloquence which characterizes the great English divines of tfce seven- 
teenth century, and which was carried to the highest pitch of gorgeous 
magnificence by Taylor and of majestic grandeur by Barrow. 

William Chillingworth (1602-1644), also an eminent defender 
of Protestantism against the Church of Rome, was converted to the 
Roman Catholic faith while studying at Oxford, and went to the Jesuits' 
College at Douay. But he subsequently returned to Oxford, renounced 
his new faith, and published in 1637 his celebrated work against Cathol- 
icism, entitled The Religion of the Protestants a Safe Way to Salva- 
tion^ in reply to a treatise by a Jesuit, named Knott, who had main- 
tained that unrepenting Protestants could not be saved. " In the long 
parenthetical periods," observes Mr. Hallam, " as in those of other old 
English writers, in his copiousness, which is never empty or tautologi- 
cal, there is an inartificial eloquence springing from strength of intel- 
lect and sincerity of feeling that cannot fail to impress the reader. But 
his chief excellence is the close reasoning which avoids every danger- 
ous admission, and yields to no ambiguousness of language. He per- 
ceived and maintained with great courage, considering the times in 
which he wrote and the temper of those whom he was not unwilling to 
keep as friends, his favorite tenet, that all things necessary to be 
believed are clearly laid down in. Scripture. ... In later times his book 
obtained a high reputation ; he was called the immortal Chillingworth ; 
he was the favorite of all the moderate and the latitudinarian writers, 
of Tillotson, Locke, and Warburton." 

§ 2. The writings of Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), though not 
exclusively theological, belong, chronologically as wxll as by their style 
and manner, to this department. Both as a man and a writer this is 
one of the most peculiar and eccentric of our great prose-authors; and 
the task of giving a clear appreciation of him is unusually difficult. 
He was an exceedingly learned man, and passed the greater part of his 
life in practising physic in the ancient city of Norwich. It should be 
remembered that the great provincial towns at that time had not been 
degraded to that insignificance to which the modern facility of inter- 
course has reduced them in relation to the Metropolis : they were then 
so many little capitals, possessing their society, their commercial activ- 
ity, and their local physiognomy, and had not yet been swallowed up 
by the monster London. Browne was born in 1605, and his life was 
unusually prolonged, as he died in 1682. His writings are of a most 
miscellaneous character, ranging froin observations on natural science 
to the most arduous subtleties of moral and metaphysical speculation. 
Among the most popular of his works are the treatise entitled Hydrio- 
taphia, or Urn-Burial, and the Essays on Vulgar Errors, which bear 

A. D. i6o8-i66i.] BROWNE. FULLER. 179 

the name oi Pseudoxia Epidemica. Th'fe first of tt ase treatises was sug- 
gested bj the digging up in Norfolk of some Roman funeral urns, and 
the other is an attempt to overthrow many of the common supersti- 
tions and erroneous notions on various subjects. But a mere specifica- 
tion of the subject will altogether fail to give an idea of Browne's 
strange but fascinating writings. They are the frank and undisguised 
outpourin|^ of one of the most original minds that ever existed. With 
the openness and discursive simplicity of Montaigne, they combine 
immense and recondite reading : at every step the author starts some 
extraordinary theory, which he illustrates by analogies so singular and 
unexpected that they produce upon the reader a mingled feeling of 
amusement and surprise, and all this in a style absolutely bristling 
witl^ quaint Latinisms, which in another writer would be pedantic, but 
in Browne were the natural garb of his thought. His diction is stiff 
with scholastic terms, like the chasuble of some medireval prelate, 
thick-set with pearl and ruby. The contrast between the simplicity of 
Browne's character and the out-of-the-way learning and odd caprices 
of theory in which he is perpetually indulging, makes him one of the 
most amusing of writers; and he very frequently rises to a sombre and 
touching eloquence. Though deeply religious in sentiment he is some- 
times apparently sceptical, and his sudden turns of thought and strange 
comparisons keep the attention of the reader continually awake. He 
stands almost alone in his passion for pursuing an idea through every 
conceivable manifestation; and his ingenuity on such occasions is 
absolutely portentous. For instance, in a treatise on the ^iiincitnx he 
finds quincunxes on the earth, in the waters, and in the heavens, naj^, 
in the very intellectual constitution of the soul. He has a particular 
tendency to dwell on the dark mysteries of time and of the universe, 
and makes us thrill with the solemnity with 'which he suggests the 
nothingness of mortal life, and the insignificance of human interests 
when compared to the immeasurable ages that lie before and behind us. 
In all Sir Thomas Browne's works an intimate companionship is estab-. 
lished between the writer and the reader ; but the book in which he 
ostensibly proposes to communicate his own personal opinions and 
feelings most unreservedly, is the Religio Medici^ a species of Confes- 
sion of Faith. In this he by no means confines himself to theological 
matters, but takes the reader into his confidence in the same artless 
and undisguised manner as the immortal Montaigne. The images and 
illustrations with which his writings are crowded, produce upon the 
reader the same effect as the familiar yet mysterious forms that make 
up an Egyptian hieroglyphic : they have the same fantastic odditj^, the 
same quaint stiffness in their attitude and combination, and impress 
the mind with the same air of solemn significance and outlandish 
remoteness from the ordinary objects of our contemplation. 

§ 3. Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) is another great and attractive 
prose-writer of this period, and has in some respects a kind of intellec- 
tual resemblance to Browne. Unlike him, however, he passed a very 
active life, having taken a not unprominent part in the Great Civil 


War, in which he embraced the cause of the royalists. Hs was born in 
1608, and survived till 1661, and it is said was to have been rewarded 
for his services with a bishopric, had the intention of the restored court 
not been defeated by his death. He studied first at Qiieen's and after- 
wards at Sidney College, Cambridge, and, entering the Church, ren- 
dered himself conspicuous in the pulpit. In the course of time he was 
nominated preacher at the Savoy in London, and in 1642, i|ist at the 
outbreak of the Civil War, offended the Parliament by a sermon deliv- 
ered at Westminster, in which he advised reconciliation with the King, 
who had left his capital and was on the eve of declaring war against 
his subjects. Fuller after this joined Charles at Oxford, and is said to 
have displeased the court party by a degree of moderat'.on which they 
called lukewarmness. Having thus excited the dissatisfaction of both 
factions, we may, I think, fairly attribute to reasonable and moderate 
views the double unpopularity of Fuller. During the war he was at- 
tached, as chaplain, to the army commanded by Sir Ralph Hopton, in 
the West of England; and he took a distinguished par.^ in the famous 
defence of Basing House, when the Parliamentary an^iy under Sir 
William Waller was forced to abandon that siege. During his cam- 
paigning Fuller industriously collected the materials for his most 
popular work, the Worthies of England and Wales, which, however, 
was not published until after the author's death. This, more than his 
Church History, is the production with which posterity has generally 
associated the name of Fuller; but his Sermons frequently exhibit 
those singular peculiarities of style which render him one of the most 
remarkable writers of his age. His writings are eminently amusing^ 
not only from the multiplicity of curious and anecdotic details which 
they contain, but from the odd and yet frequently profound reflections 
suggested by those details. The Worthies contain biographical notices 
of eminent Englishmen, as connected with the different counties, and 
furnish an inexhaustible treasure of curious stories and observations : 
but whatever the subject Fuller treats, he places it in such a number of 
new and unexpected lights, and introduces in illustration of it such a 
number of ingenious remarks, that the attention of the reader is inces- 
santly kept alive. He was a man of a pleasant and jovial as well as an 
ingenious turn of mind : there is no sourness or asceticism in his way 
of thinking; flashes of fancy are made to light up the gravest and most 
unattractive subjects, and, as frequently happens in men of a lively 
turn, the sparkle of his wit is warmed by a glow of sympathy and ten- 
derness. His learning was very extensive and very minute, and he 
drew from out-of-the-way and neglected corners of reading, illustrations 
which give the mind a pleasant shock of novelty. One great source 
of his picturesqugness is his frequent use of antithesis ; and, in his 
works, antithesis is not what it frequently becomes in other authors, as 
in Samuel Johnson for example, a bare opposition of -words, but it is 
the juxtaposition of apparently discordant ideas, from whose sudden 
contact there flashes forth the spark of wit or the embodiment of some 
original conception. The shock of his antithetical oppositions is like 

A. D. 1613-1667.] JEREMY TAYLOR. 181 

the action of the galvanic battery — creative. He has been accused of 
levity in intermingling ludicrous images with serious matter, but these 
images are the reflex of his ovfn cheerful, ingenious, and amiable 
nature; and though their oddity may sometimes excite a smile, it is a 
smile which is never incompatible with serious feelings He is said to 
have possessed an almost supernatural quickness of memory, yet he 
has given many excellent precepts guarding against the abuse of this 
faculty, and in the same way he has shown that wit and ingenuity may 
be rendered compatible with lofty morality and deep feeling. In a 
word, he was essentially a wise and learned humorist, with not less 
singularity of genius than Sir Thomas Browne, and with less than 
that strange writer's abstract indifference to ordinary human interests. ^'^^^^^ 

§ 4. But by far the greatest theological writer of the Anglican Church 
at this period was Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667). He was of good but 
decayed family, his father having exercised the humble calling of a 
barber at Cambridge, where his illustrious son was born in 1613. The 
boy received a sound education at the Grammar-School founded by 
Perse, then recently opened in that town, and afterwards studied at 
Caius College, where his talents and learning soon made him conspicu- 
ous. He took holy orders at an unusually early age, and is said to 
have attracted by his youthful eloquence, and by his " grace fut and 
pleasant air," the notice of Archbishop Laud, the celebrated Primate 
and Minister, to whose narrow-minded bigotry and tj^rannical indiffer- 
ence to the state oi: religious opinion among his countrymen so much 
of the confusion of those days is to be ascribed. Laud, who was struck 
with Taylor's merits at a sermon preached by the latter, made the 
young priest one of his chaplains, and procured for him a fellowship 
in All Souls' College, Oxford. His career during the Civil War bears 
some semblance to that of Fuller, but he stood higher in the favor of 
the Cavaliers and the Court. He served, as chaplain, in the Royalist 
army, and was taken prisoner in 1644 at the action fought under the 
walls of Cardigan Castle; but he confesses that on this occasion, as 
well as on several others when he fell into the power of the triumphant 
party of the Parliament, he was treated with generosity and indulgence. 
Such traits of mutual forbearance, during the heat of civil strife, are 
honorable to both parties, and as refreshing as they are rare. Our 
great national struggle, however, offered many instances of such noble 
magnanimity. The King's cause growing desperate, Ta^'lor at last 
retired from it, and Charles, on taking leave of him, made him a pres- 
ent of his watch. Taylor then placed himself under the protection of 
his friend Lord Carbery, and resided for some time at the seat of Golden 
Grove, belonging to that nobleman, in Carmarthenshire. Taylor was 
twice married ; first to Phoebe Langdale, who died early, and after- 
wards to Joanna Bridges, a natural daughter of Charles I., with whom 
he received some fortune. He was unhappy in his children, his two 
sons having been notorious for their profligacy, and he had the sorrow 
of surviving them both. During part of the time which he passed in 
retirement, Taylor kept a school in Wales, and continued to take an 
16 ^ 


active part in the religious controversies of the day. The opinions he 
expressed were naturally distasteful to the dominant party, and on at 
least three occasion subjected him to imprisonment and sequestrations 
at the hands of the Government. In 1658, for example, he was for a 
short time incarcerated in the Tower, and on his liberation migrated to 
Ireland, where he performed the pastoral functions at Lisburri. On the 
Restoration his services and sacrifices were rewarded with the Bishopric 
of Down and Connor, and during the short time he held that prefer- 
ment he exhibited the brightest qualities that can adorn the episcopal 
dignity. He died at Lisburn of a fever, in 1667, and left behind him a 
high reputation for courtesj^, charity, and zeal — all the virtues of a 
Christian Bishop. 

§ 5. Taylor's works are very numerous and varied in subject: I will 
content myself with mentioning the principal, and then endeavor to 
give a general appreciation of his genius. In the controversial depart- 
ment his best known work is the treatise On the Liberty of Prophesy- 
mg, which must be understood to refer to the general profession of 
religious principles and the right of all Christians to toleration in the 
exercise of their worship. This book is the first complete and system- 
atic defence of the great principle of religious toleration ; and in it 
Taj'lor shows how contrary it is, not only to the spirit of Christianity 
but even to the true interests of Government, to interfere with the pro- 
fession and practice of religious sects. Of course, the argument, 
though of universal application, was intended by Taylor to secure in- 
dulgence for what had once been the dominant Church of England, but 
which was now proscribed and persecuted by the r-ampant violence of 
the sectarians. An Apology for Fixed and Set Forms of Worship was 
an elaborate defence of the noble ritual of the Anglican Church. 
Among his works of a disciplinary and practical tendency I may men--, 
tion his Life of Christy the Great Exemplar, in which the details scat- 
tered thi'ough the Evangelists and the Fathers are co-ordinated in a 
continuous narrative. But the most popular of Taylor's writings are 
the two admirable treatises 0?i the Rule and Exercise of Holy Living-, 
and On the Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying, which mutually cor- 
respond to and complete each other, and which form an Institute of 
Christian life and conduct, adapted to every conceivable circumstance 
and relation of human existence. This devotional work has enjoyed 
in England a popularity somewhat similar to that of the Imitation of 
Jesus Christ among Catholics ; a popularity it deserves for a similar 
eloquence and unction. The least admirable of his numerous writings, 
and the only one in which he derogated from his usual tone of courtesy 
and fairness, was his Ductor Dubitantium, a treatise of questions of 
casuistry. His Sermons are very numerous, and are among the most 
eloquent, learned, and powerful that the whole range of Protestant — 
naj^, the whole range of Christian — literature has produced. As in 
his character, so in his writings, Taylor is the ideal of an Anglican 
pastor. Our Church itself being a middle term or compromise between 
the gorgeous formalism of Catholicism and the narrow fanaticism o^ 

A. D. 161:^-1667.] JEREMY TAYLOR. 183 

Calvinistic theology, so our great ecclesiastic writers exhibit the union 
of consummate learning with practical simplicity and fervor. 

§ 6. Taylor's style, though occasionally overcharged with erudition 
and marked by that abuse of quotation which disfigures a great deal 
of the prose of that age, is unifoi-mly magnificent. The materials are 
drawn from the whole range of profane as well as sacred literature, and 
are fused together into a rich and gorgeous unity by the fire of an 
unequalled imagination. No prose is more melodious than that of this 
great writer; his periods, though often immeasurably long, and evolv- 
ing, in a series of subordinate clauses and illustrations, a train of 
images#and comparisons, one springing out of another, roll on with a 
soft yet mighty swell, which has often something of the enchantment 
of verse. He has been called by the critic Jeffrey, "the most Shak- 
spearian of our great divines ; " but it would be more appropriate to 
compare him with Spenser. He has the same pictorial fancy, the same 
voluplupus and languishing harmony; but if he can in any respect be 
likened to Shakspeare, it is firstly in the vividness of intellect which 
leads him to follow, digressivelj^ the numberless secondary ideas that 
spring up as he writes, and often lead him apparently far away from 
his point of departure, and, secondl}^, the preference he shows for draw- 
ing his illustrations from the simplest and most familiar objects, from 
the opening rose, the infant streamlet, " the little rings and wanton 
tendrils of the vine," the morning song of the soaring lark, or the 
"fair cheeks and full eyes of childhood." Like Shakspeare, too, he 
knows how to paint the terrible and the sublime no less than the 
tender and the affecting; and his description of the horrors of the 
Judgment-Day is no less powerful than his exquisite portraiture of 
married love. Nevertheless, with Spenser's sweetness he has occasion- 
ally something of the luscious and enervate languor of Spenser's stj'le. 
He had studied the Fathers so intensely that he had become infected 
with something of that lavish and Oriental imagery which many of 
those great writers exhibited — many of whom, it should be remem- 
bered, were Orientals, not only in their style, but in their origin. Tak- 
ing his personal character and his writings together, Jeremy Taylor 
may be called the English Fenelon ; but in venturing to make this 
parallel, we must not forget that each of these excellent writers and 
admirable men possessed the characteristic features of his respective 
country : if Fenelon's productions, like those of Taylor's, are distin- 
guished by their sweetness, that sweetness is allied in the former to the 
neat, clear, precise expression which the French literature derives not 
only from the classical origin of the language, but from the antique 
writers who have always been set up as models for French imitation ; 
while Jeremy Taylor, with a sweetness not inferior, owes that quality to 
the same rich and poetic susceptibility to natural beauty that gives such 
a matchless coloring to the English poetry of the sixteenth and seven- 
ieenth centuries. 

§ 7. Having thus given a rapid sketch of some of the great figures 
whose genius adorned the Church, it may complete our view of the 


religious aspect of that time to mention some of the more remarkable 
men who appeared in the opposing party. The greatest names among 
the latter class — Milton and Bunj^an — will be discussed in subsequent 
chapters ; but a few words may now be added respecting the excellent 
Baxter and the fanatical founder of the sect of the Quakers, George 
Fox, together with his more cultivated, yet not less earnest, follower 
William Penn, and Barclay, who defended with the arms of learning 
and argument a system originally founded by half-frantic enthusiasm. 

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) was during nearly the whole of his 
long life the victim of unrelenting persecution. Few authors have 
been so prolific as he ; the multitude of his tracts and religiou* works 
almost defies computation. He was the consistent and unconquerable 
defender of the right of religious liberty;* and in those evil days when 
James II. endeavored forcibly to re-establish the Roman Catholic 
religion in England, Baxter was exposed to all the virulence and bru- 
tality of the infamous Jeftries and his worse than inquisitorial tribunal. 
He was a man of vast learning, the purest piety, and the most indefatiga- i^. 
ble industry. In prison, in extreme poverty, chased like a hunted beast, ^ 
suffering from a weak constitution and a painful and incurable disease, -r-^ 
this meek yet imconquerable spirit still fought his fight, pouring forth ^ 
book after book in favor of free worship, and opposing the quiet suf- 
ferance of a primitive martyr to the rage and tyranny of the persecu- 
tor. His works, which have little to recommend them to a modern 
reader but the truly evangelical spirit of toleration which they breathe, 
are little known in the present day, with the exception of the Saints' ._, 
Eveylasti7iir Resf, and A Call to the Unconverted. 

George Fox (1624-1690), the founder of the Qiiaker sect, was a man 
born in the humblest rank of life in 1624, and so completely without 
education that his numerous Avritings are filled with unintelligible gib- 
berish, and in many instances, even after having been revised and put 
in order by disciples possessed of education, it is hardly possible, through 
the mist of ungrammatical and incoherent declamation, to make out 
the drift of the avithbr's argument. The life of Fox was like that of 
many other ignorant enthusiasts ; believing himself the object of a 
special supernatural call from God, he retired from human companion- 
ship, and lived for some time in a hollow tree, clothed in a leathern 
dress which he had made with his own hands. Wandering about the 
country to preach his doctrines, the principal of which were a denial of 
all titles of respect, and a kind of quietism combined with hostility not 
only to all formal clerical functions and establishments, but even to all 
institutions of governm.ent, he met with constant and furious persecu- 
tion at the hands of the clergy, the country magistrates, and the rab- 
ble, whose manners were, of course, much more brutal than in the 
present day. He has left curious records of his own adventures, and 
in particular of two interviews with Cromwell, upon whose mind the 
earnestness an*^ ;,incerity of the poor Q^iaker seemed to have produced 
an impression honorable to the goodness of the Protector's heart. 
Fox's claims to the gift of prophecy and to the power of detecting 

A. D. 1644-1 7iS.] PENN. BARCLAY. 185 

witches bear witness at once to his ignorance and simplicity, and to the 
universal prevalence of gross superstition ; but we cannot deny to him 
the praise of ardent faith, deep, if unenlightened, benevolence, and a 
truly Christian spirit of patience under insults and injuries. * 

William Penn (1644-1718), the founder of the colony of Pennsyl- 
vania, played a very active and not always very honorable part at the 
court of James II. when that prince, under a transparent pretext of 
zeal for religious liberty, was endeavoring, by giving privileges to the 
dissenting and nonconformist sects, to shake the power and influence of 
the Protestant Church, and thus to pave the way for the execution of 
his darling scheme, the re-establishment of Romanism in England. 
Penn was a man of good birth and academical education, but early 
adopted the doctrines of the Qiiakers. His name will ever be respec- 
table for the benevolence and wisdom he exhibited in founding that 
colony which was afterwards destined to become a wealthy and enlight- 
ened state, and in the excellent and humane precepts he gave for the 
conduct of relations between the first settlers and the Indian aborigines. 
The sect of Qiiakers has always been conspicuous for peaceable beha- 
vior, practical good sense, and much acuteness in worldly matters. 
Their principles forbidding them to take any part in warfare, and 
excluding them from almost all occupations but those of trade and 
commerce, they have generally been thriving and rich, and their num- 
bers being small they have been able to carry out those excellent and 
well-considered plans for mutual help and support which have made 
their charitable institutions the admiration of all philanthropists. 

Robert Barclay (1648-1690) was a Scottish country-gentleman of 
considerable attainments, who published a systematic defence of the 
doctrines of the sect founded by the ruc}^ zeal of Fox. His celebrated 
Apology for the Quakers was published, originally in Latin, in 1676. 



[CriAP. X. 



JosErn Hall (1574^1650), Bishop of Norwich, 
vchose satires have been already mentioned (p. 83), 
was also a distinguished theological writer. Ills 
Contemplations and his Art of Divine Meditation 
arc the most celebrated of his works. As a devo- 
tional writer he is second only to Jeremy Taylor. 

ROBEET Sandeeson (1587-1GG3), Bishop of 
Salisbury, one of the most celebrated of the High- 
Church Divines, wrote works on casuistry, and 
Bcrnions distinguished by great learning. 

Owen Feltuam (circa 1610-1677) lived in the 
house of the Earl of Tliomond. His work entitled 
Resolves, Divine, Moral, and Political, was first 
published in 1628, and enjoyed great popularity 
for many years. But Mr. Ilallam's judgment is that 
" Feltham is not only a labored and artiiicial, but a 
shallow writer." He owed much of his popularity 
to a pointed and sententious style. 

SiE Thomas Oveeuuky (1581-1613), who was 
poisoned in the Tower in the reign of James I., 
wrote a work entitled Characters, which displays 
skill in the delineation of character. His descrip- 
tion of the Fair and happy Milkmaid has been often 
quoted, and is one of the best of his characters. He 
also wrote two didactic poems entitled The Wife 
and the Choice of a Wife. 

JOHN Eakle (1601-1665), Bishop of Worcester, 
and afterwards of Salisbury, the reputed author of a 
work, Microcosmography, or a Piece of th^ World 
Discovered, in Essays and Characters, published 
anonymously about 1628. " In some of these short 
characters Earle is worthy of comparison with La 
Bruydre j in others, perhaps the greater part, he has 
contented himself with pictures of ordinary man- 
cers,%uch as the varieties of occupation, rather than 
of intrinsic character, supply. In all, however, we 

find an acute observation and a happy humor of 
expression. The chapter entitled the Sceptic is be it 
known ; it is witty, but an insult throughout on tho 
honest searcher after truth, which could have come 
only from one that was content to take up his own 
opinions for ease or profit. Earle is always gaj' and 
quick to catch the ridiculous, especially that of 
exterior appearances ; his stj-le is short, describing 
well with a few words, but with much of the affected 
quaintness of that age. It is one of those books 
which give us a picturesque idea of the manners of 
our fatliers at a period now become remote, and for 
this reason, were there no other, it would deserve to 
be read." (HaUam.) 

Peteb Heylin (1600-1662), a divine and histo- 
rian, deprived of his preferments by the Parliament, 
was the author of many works, of which the most 
popular was his Microcosmus, or a Description of 
the Great World, first published in 1621. 

JOIIX Selden (1584-1654), one of the most learned 
men of his age, and the author of numerous histor- 
ical and antiquarian works; but the one by which 
he is best known in English literature is his Tahle- 
Talk, published after his death, containing many 
acute sayings, and well worth reading. 

James USSHEE (1581-1056), Archbishop of Ar- 
magh, likewise distinguished for his great learning 
is best known by his chronological work, entitled 
Annals, containing chronological tables of univer- 
sal history from the creation to the time of Ves- 
pasian. The dates in the margin of the authorized 
version of the Bible are taken from Ussher. 

John Gauden (1605-1604), Bishop of Exeter, 
and afterwards of Worcester, was the author of 
Ikon BasilUS, a work professing to be written by 
Charles I. The authorship of this book has been 
the subject of much controversy ; but there can be 
no doubt that it was written by Gauden, who., after 
the Restoration, clauned it as his own. 

A. D. 1608-1674.] JOHN MILTON. 187 


JOHN MILTON, A. D. 1608-1674. 

\ 1. John Milton. His early life and education. § 2. Travels in Italy. § Z, 
Returns to England. Espouses the popular party. His Areopagitica. $ 4. 
Made Latin Secretary to the Council of State. His Defensio Populi Anglicani^ 
and other Prose Works. His Tractate of Education. § 5. History of his life 
after the Restoration. His death. § 6. Three periods of Milton's literary 
career. First Period : 1623-1640. Hymn on the Nativity. Comiis. ^ 7. 
Lycidas. § 8. U Allegro and II Penseroso. § 9. Milton's Latin and Italian 
writings. His English Sonnets. § 10. Second Period : 1640-1660. Style 
of his prose writings. § 11. Third Period : 1660-1674. Paradise Lost. 
-Analysis of the poem. Its versification. § 12. Incidents and personages of 
the poem. Conduct and development of the plot. § 13. Paradise Regained. 
§ 14. Samson Agonistes. 

§ 1. Above the seventeenth century towers, in solitary grandeur, the 
sublime figure of John Milton (1608-1674). It will be no easy task to 
give even a cursory sketch of a life so crowded with literary as well as 
political activity; still less easy to appreciate the varied, j^et all incom- 
parable, works in which this mighty genius has embodied its concep- 
tions. He was born, on the 9th December, 1608, in London, and 
was sprung from an ancient and gentle stock. His father, an ardent 
republican, and who sympathized with the Puritan doctrines, had 
quarrelled with his relations, and had taken his own independent part 
in life, embracing the profession of a money-scrivener, in which, by 
industry and unquestioned integrity, he had amassed a considerable 
fortune, so as to be able to retire to a pleasant country-house at Horton, 
near Colne, in Oxfordshire. It was undoubtedly from his father that 
the poet first imbibed his political and religious sympathies, and per- 
haps also something of that lofty, stern, but calm and noble spirit 
which makes his character resemble that of the heroes of ancient story. 
The boy evidently gave indications, from his early childhood, of the 
extraordinary intellectual powers which distinguished him from all 
other men ; and his father, a person of cultured mind, seems to have 
furthered the design of Nature, by setting aside the youthful prophet 
and consecrating him — like Samuel — to the service of the Temple — 
the holy temple of patriotism and literature. Milton enjoyed the rare 
advantage of an education specially training him for the career of 
letters ; and the proud care with which he collected every production of 
nis youthful intelligence, his first verses and his college exercises, shows 
that he was well aware that everything proceeding from his pen, 
"whether prosing or versing," as he says himself, " had certain signs 
Df life in it," and merited preservation. What in other men would 
have been a pardonable vanity, in him was a duty he owed to his own 

188 JOnN MILTON. [Chap. XL 

genius and to posterit}-. He was most carefully educated, first at home, 
then at St. Paul's School, London, Avhence he entered Christ's College, 
Cambridge, jet a child in j^ears, but already a consummate scholar. 
We may conceive with what admiration, even with what awe, must 
have been regarded by his preceptors both in the School and in the 
University the first efforts of his Muse, which, though taking the com- 
monplace form of academical prolusions, exhibit a force of conception, 
a pure majestj^ of thought, and a solemn and orga.i-like music of ver- 
sification that widely separate them from even the matured productions 
of contemporary poets. He left Cambridge in 1632, after taking his 
Master's degree, and there are many allusions in his works which prove 
that the doctrines and discipline of the University at that time con- 
tained much that was distasteful to his haughty and uncontrolled spirit. 
His first attempts in poetry were made as early as his thirteenth year, 
so that he is as striking an instance of precocity as of power of genius; 
and his sublime Hymn 07i the Natiznty, in which may plainly be seen 
all the characteristic features of his intellectual nature, was written, 
as a college exercise, in his twenty-first year. On leaving the Univer- 
sity he resided for about five years at his father's seat at Horton, con- 
tinuing his multifarious studies with unabated and almost excessive 
ardor, and filling his mind with those sweet and simple emanations of 
rural beauty which are so exquisitely reflected in his poetry. His 
studies seem to have embraced the whole circle of human knowledge: 
the literature of every age and of every cultivated language, living and 
dead, gave up all its stores of truth and beauty to his all-embracing 
mind : the most arduous subtleties of philosophy, the loftiest mysteries 
of theological learning, were familiar to him : there is no art, no 
science, no profession with which he was not more or less acquainted; 
and however we rt\3.y wonder at the majesty of his genius, the extent 
of his acquirements is no less astounding. It was during this, probably 
happiest, period of his life that he wrote the more graceful, fanciful, 
and eloquent of his poems, the pastoral drama, or Masque, of Comus, 
the lovely elegy on his friend King entitled Lycidas, and in all proba- 
bility the descriptive gems L' Allegro and II Penseroso, At this epoch 
his mind seems to have exhibited that exquisite susceptibility to all 
refined, courtlj', and noble emotions which is so faithfully reflected in 
these works, emotions not incompatible in him with the severest purity 
'6f sentiment and the loftiest dignity of principle. He was at this time 
eminentlj' beautiful in person, though of a stature scarcely attaining 
the middle size; but he relates with pride that he was remarkable for 
his bodily activity and his address in the use of the sword During the 
whole of his life, indeed, the appearance of the poet was noble, almost 
ideal : his face gradually exchanged a childish, seraphic beauty for the 
lofty expression of sorrow and sublimity which it bore in his blindness 
and old age. When young he was the type of his own angels, when 
old of a prophet, a patriot, and a saint. 

§ 2. In 163S the poet, now about thirty, set out upon his travels on 
the continent — the completion of a perfect education. He visited the 

A. D. 1608-167^.] JOHN MILTON'. 189 

most celebrated cities of Italy, France, and Switzerland; was furnished 
with powerful introductions, and received everywhere with marked 
respect and admiration. "Johannes Miltonus, Anglus," seems to have 
struck the learned and fastidious Italians with unusual astonishment; 
and wherever he went the youthful poet gave proofs, "as the manner 
was," of his profound skill in Italian and Latin verse. He appears 
everywhere to have made acquaintance with all who were most illus- 
trious for learning and genius ; he had an interview with Galileo, 
"then grown old, a prisoner in the Inquisition," and he laid the foun- 
dation of solid friendships with the learned Deodate, originally of an 
illustrious house of Lucca, but now retired, for the free profession of 
Protestant opinions, to Geneva, where he was a celebrated professor 
of theology, and the noble Manso, the distinguished poet and friend 
of poets, who had been the friend of Torquato Tasso, and now — 

"With open arms received one poet more." 

During his residence abroad the young poet gave proofs not only of 
his learning and genius, but also of the ardor of his religious and 
political enthusiasm, so hostile to Catholicism and monarchy; and 
though he had at starting received from the wise diplomatist Wotton 
the prudent recommendation of maintaining "il volto sciolto ed i pen- 
sieri stretti," his anti-papal zeal exposed him at Rome and other 
places to considerable danger, even, it is supposed, of assassination. 
The friendships Milton formed with virtuous and accomplished for- 
eigners were in some degree the suggesting motive for many of his 
Italian and Latin poems ; for in the former language he wrote at least 
as well as the majority of the contemporary poets of any but the first 
class, and in the latter his compositions have never been surpassed by 
any modern writer of Latin verse. 

§ 3. After spending about fifteen months on the continent he was 
abruptly recalled to England by the first mutterings of that social and 
political tempest which was for a time to overthrow the Monarchy and 
the Church. So fervid a patriot and so inveterate an enemy of episco- 
pacy was not likely to remain an inactive spectator of the momentous 
conflict : he threw himself into the struggle with all the ardor of his 
temperament and convictions ; and from this period begins the second 
phase of his many-sided life. His father was dead, and Milton now 
began the career of a vehement and even furious controversialist. He 
was one of the most prolific writers of that agitated time, producing 
works on all the most pressing questions of the day. Chiefly the advo- 
cate of republican principles in the state, he was the most uncom- 
promising enemy of the Episcopal Church. His fortune being small, 
he opened a school in 1640, and among those who had the honor of his 
instructions, only two persons are at all celebrated, his nephews John 
and Charles Phillips, who have contributed some details to the history 
of English Poetry. The commencement of Milton's career as a prose 
writer may be referred to about the year 1641, and it continued almost 
without interruption till the Restoration defeated all his hopes, and 

l&O JOHN MILTON. [Chap. XI. 

left him, in blindness, poverty, and danger, nothing but the proud con- 
sciousness of having done his duty as a good citizen, and the leisure to 
devote the closing ye?.rs of his life to the composition of his sublimest 
poems, the Paradise Lost and the Paradise Regained. 

Milton's first prose writings were directed against the Anglican 
Church Establishment, but he soon took a very active part in agitating 
an important question involving the Law of Divorce. This was sug- 
gested by his own conjugal infelicity. His first marriage was an unfor 
tunate one. In 1643 he was united to Mary Powell, the daughter of a 
spendthrift and ruined country gentleman of strong Royalist sym- 
pathies, to whom Milton's father had lent sums of money which he was 
unable to repay, and who appears to have sacrificed his daughter to an 
unsuitable and unpromising match in order to escape from his embar- 
rassments. Mary Powell, soon disgusted with the austerity of Milton's 
life, fled to her father's house, and was only recalled to the conjugal 
roof by a report that her husband, basing his determination upon the 
Levitical law, was meditating a new marriage with another person. 
The lady was forgiven by her husband, but the remaining years of her 
marriage were probably not happy, though three daughters were the 
fruit of the union. We shall by and by see that Milton was twice 
married after the death of his first wife. The finest of the prose com- 
positions produced at this epoch was the Areopagitica^ an oration 
after the antique model, addressed to the Parliament of England in 
defence of the Liberty of the Press. It is the sublimest pleading that 
any age or country has produced, in favor of the great fundamental 
principle of Freedom of Thought and Opinion. In this, as in many 
other of his prose works, Milton rises to an almost superhuman eleva- 
tion of eloquence. It was published in 1644. About this time he began 
his History of England^ a work which he abandoned quite at its com- 
mencement ; he used the subject merely as a vehicle for attacking the 
abuses of Catholicism and the monastic orders. 

§ 4. In 1649 Milton received the appointment of Latin Secretary to 
the Council of State, a post in which his skill in Latin composition 
was employed in carrying on the diplomatic intercourse between Eng- 
land and other countries, such correspondence being at that time always 
couched in the universally-understood language of ancient Rome; but 
in these duties, probably in consideration of his rapidly-increasing in- 
firmity of sight, were joined with him in his office first Meadowes, and 
afterwards the excellent and accomplished Marvell. The loss of the 
great poet's sight became total in 1662, though the gutta serena which 
caused it had been gradually coming on during ten years. His eyes, 
even from early youth, had been delicate; and in his intense devotion 
to study he had greatly overtasked them. In one of the noblest of his 
Sonnets he alludes, in a strain of lofty self-consciousness and religious 
resignation, to the fact of his loss of sight, which he proudly attributes 
to his having overtasked it in the defence of truth and liberty; and in 
the character of the blinded Samson, he undoubtedly shadows forth his 
own infirmity and his own feelings. 

A. D. 1608-1674.] JOHN MILTON, 191 

Connected with Milton's engagement in the service of the Republican 
Government are passages, both in prose and verse, in which he ex- 
presses his sympathy with the glorious administration and great persona] 
qualities of Cromwell : but his eulogy, though warm and enthusiastic, 
is free from every trace of adulation. He probablj^, though disapprov- 
ing of the despotic and military character of the Protector's rule, gave 
liis adherence to it as the least in a choice of many evils, and pardoned 
some of the unavoidable severities of a revolutionary government, in 
consideration of the great benefits which accompanied, and the patriotic 
spirit which animated it. It made England, for the time, the terror 
of the Continental nations and the representative of the Protestant 

Milton's most celebrated controversy was that with Salmasius (de 
Saumaise) on the subject of the right of the English people to make 
war upon, to dethrone, and to decapitate their King, on the ground of 
his attempts to infringe the Constitution in virtue of which he reigned. 
The misfortunes and the tragic death of Charles I. naturally excited in 
the minds of sovereigns at that time something of the same horror and 
alarm ^s the execution of Louis XVI. afterwards spread throughout 
Europe : and the eccentric Christian of Sweden employed de Saumaise, 
one of the most learned men of that day, to write what may be called 
a ponderous Latin pamphlet — for Latin was the language universally 
employed at that time in diplomacy, in controversy, and in science — 
invoking the vengeance of Heaven upon the regicide Parliament of Eng- 
land. Milton replied in his Defensio Popicli A7iglicani, maintaining the 
right and justifying the conduct of his countrymen. His invectives are 
not less violent than those of his antagonist, his Latinity is not less 
elegant, but the controversy is as little honorable to the one as to the 
other combatant. The tone of literary warfare was then coarse and 
ferocious ; and in their vehemence of mutual vituperation these two 
great scholars descend to personal abuse, in which exquisite Latinity 
forms but a poor excuse for brutal violence. 

It would be tiresome to the reader, and inappropriate to a work like 
the present, to give a detailed list of all Milton's Prose writings. Their 
subjects, for the most part, had only a temporary interest; and their 
style, whether Latin or English, generally resembles, in its wonderful 
power, grandeur, and picturesqueness, and in a sort of colossal and 
elaborate involution, that of the writings which I have already men- 
tioned. I may, however, note the Apology for Smectyjnnuus^ in which 
Milton defends the conclusions of that famous pamphlet, the strange 
name of which is a kind of anagram composed of the initials of its five 
authors, the chief of whom was Thomas Young, Milton's deeplv- 
venerated Puritan preceptor, the book called Iconoclastes — or the 
Image-breaker — intended to neutralize the effect of the celebrated 
Icoji Basilike, written by Bishop Gauden in the character of Charles I,, 
in which the piety, resignation, and sufferings of the Royal martyr were 
represented in so lively a manner that this work probably contributed 
more than anything else to excite the public commiseration. Other 

1 9 2 JO EN MIL TON. [Chaf . XI. 

treatises, among which may be mentioned The Reason of Ckurch Gov- 
er7iment Urged against Prelry, A Ready and Easy Way to Establish a 
True Com)non7vealth, sufficiently exhibit in their titles the nature of 
their subjects. What is now iTKDst interesting to us in these controver- 
sial writings of Milton is firstly the astonishing grandeur of eloquence 
to which he occasionally rises in those outbursts of enthusiasm that are 
intermingled with drier matter, and secondly the frequent notices of his 
own personal feelings, studies, and mode of life, which, in his eager- 
ness to defend himself against calumnious attacks on his moral charac- 
ter, he has frequently interspersed. For example, both the Areopagitica 
and his pamphlet against Prelacy, contain a most glorious epitome of 
his studies, his projects, and his literary aspirations. The only work 
that I need particularly mention, besides those already enumerated, is 
his curious Tractate of Education. In this Milton has drawn up a 
beautiful, but entirely Utopian, scheme for remodelling the whole sys- 
tem of training and reducing it to something like the antique pattern. 
Milton proposes the entire abolition of the present system both of 
School and University; he would bring up young men with as much 
attention to physical as to intellectual development, by a mechanism 
borrowed from thQ ptrytaneia of the ancient Greeks, public institutions 
in which instruction should have an encyclopaedic character, and where 
all the arts, trades, and sciences should be taught, so as to produce 
sages, patriots, and soldiers. This treatise was published in 1644. 

§ 5. With the Restoration, in 1660, begins the last, the most gloomy, 
and yet the most glorious period of the great poet's career. That event 
was naturally the signal of distress and persecution to one who by his 
writings had shown himself the most consistent, persevering, and 
formidable enemy of monarchy and episcopacy, and who had attacked, 
with particular vehemence, the character of Charles I. Milton was 
excepted, together with all those who had taken any share in the trial 
and execution of the king, from the general amnesty. He was im- 
prisoned, but liberated after a confinement of some months ; and the 
indulgence with w^hich he was treated may be attributed either to con- 
sideration for his learning, poverty, and blindness, or, perhaps, to the 
intercession of some who knew how to appreciate his virtues and his 
genius. It is said that Sir W. Davenant successfully used his influence 
to spare the aged poet any further persecution. From this period till 
his death he lived in close retirement, busily occupied in the compo- 
sition of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. The former of these 
works was finished in 1665, and had been his principal employment 
during about seven j^ears. The companion epic, a work of much 
shorter extent, as w^ell as the noble and pathetic tragedy of Samson Ag- 
onistes, are attributed to the year 1671. On the 8th of November, 1674, 
Milton died, at the age of sixty-six, and was buried in Cripplegate 
churchyard. He had been thrice married, first to Mary Powell, by 
whom he had three daughters, all of whom survived him, and who are 
said to have treated him in his old age with harshness and disrespect/ 
There is a tradition of hie having employed his daughters to read to 

A. D. 1608-1674.] JOHN MILTON. 193 

him and to -write under his dictation, but this is hardly probable, as 
there are documents which prove them to haveifceen ahnost entirely 
without education. His second wife, Katliarine Woodcock, he espoused 
in 1656, and this union, though of short duration, appears to have been 
far better suited than the first ; his wife Katharine died two years after, 
in childbed, and Milton had also the grief of losing his infant. He 
married for the third time at the advanced age of fifty-five, probably 
with a view of obtaining that comfort and care which his helpless state 
so much required. The lady was Elizabeth Minshull, and was much 
younger than the poet, whom she survived. 

§ 6. Milton's literary career divides itself naturally into three gi^eat 
periods — that of his youth, that of his manhood, and that of his old 
age. The first may be roughly stated as extending from 1623 to 1640; 
the second from 1640 to 1660, the date of the Restoration ; and the 
third from the Restoration to the poet's death in 1674. During the first 
of these he produced the principal poetical works marked by a graceful, 
tender character, and on miscellaneous subjects ; during the second he 
was chiefly occupied with his prose controversies ; and in the third we 
see him slowly elaborating the Paradise Lost, the Paradise Regained^ 
and the Samson Agonistes. I will now examine, somewhat more in de- 
tail, the works belonging to each phase of his intellectual development, 
premising only that the first epoch is mainly characterized by grace, 
the second by force and vehemence, and the third by unapproachable 

In the early, almost boyish productions of Milton's muse — as the 
Verses at a Solejmz Music, the poetical exercises written at school and 
college, the Hymn on the Nativity — no reader can fail to remark that 
this author already exhibits qualities of thought and expression which 
distinguish him from all poets of any age or country. The chief of 
these qualities is a peculiar majesty of conception, combined with con- 
summate though somewhat austere harmony and grace. His poetry 
is like his own Eve — a consummate type of loveliness, uniting the 
severe yet sensuous beauty of classical sculpture with the ideal and 
abstracted elevation of Christian art. In all these works we see a 
scholarship so vast and complete that it would have overwhelmed and 
crushed a power of original conception less mighty than that of Milton, .-n^ 
and a power of original conception that derives a duly subordinate \ 
adornment from the inexhaustible stores of erudition. Above all there 
is visible, in even the least elaborate of Milton's poems, a peculiar . 
solemn weighty melodj'^ of versification that fills and satisfies the ear 
like the billowy sound of a mighty organ. How wonderfully has he, in 
the Hyjnn o?i the Nativity, combined with the pictures of simple rural 
innocence the shepherds sitting ere the break of dawn, the picturesque 
legends connected with the cessation of the Pagan oracles at the period 
of our Lord's incarnation, the pictures of the horrible rites of Moloch 
and Osiris, the grand image of universal peace that then reigned 
throughout the world, with the kings sitting still with " awful eye " of 
expectation, and the glimpse into the unspeakable splendors of heaven, ^ 

194 . JOHN MILTON. [Chap. XI. 

the " helmed cherubim and sworded seraphim harping in loud and 
solemn quire " befor* the throne of the Almighty ! This magnificent 
ode is a fitting prelude to the Paradise Lost. '^'~" 

In mj remarks upon the dramatic literature of the age of Elizabeth 
and James I., I took occasion to speak of that peculiar and exquisitely 
fanciful species of entertainment called the Masque, of which Ben 
Jonson and other poets had produced such delicious examples. It was 
reserved to Milton to equal the great poets who preceded him in the 
elegance and refinement which characterize this kind of half-dramatic, 
half-lj-ric composition, while he far surpassed them in loftiness and 
purity of sentiment. They had exhausted their courtlj' and scholar- 
like fancy in inventing elaborate compliments to some of the most 
worthless and contemptible of princes ; Milton communicated to what 
was originally a mere vehicle for elegant adulation a pure and lofty 
ethical tone that soars into the very empyrean of moral speculation. 
The Masque of Comiis was written to be performed at Lvidlow Castle, 
in the presence of the Earl of Bridgewater, then Governor-General of 
the Welsh Marches, an accomplished nobleman, and one of the most 
powerful personages of the time. His daughter, Lady Alice Egerton, 
and his two sons had lost their way in the woods when walking; and 
out of this simple incident Milton created the most beautiful pastoral 
drama that has liitherto been produced. It was represented by the 
young people who were the heroes of the incident on which it was 
founded, and the other characters were fiJled by Milton's friend, Henry ^- 
Lawes, a composer who had studied in Italy, and who furnished the^ 
graceful music that accompanied its IjTic portions. The characters are v 
few, consisting of the Lady, the two Brothers, Comus (a wicked eqA"^^ 
chanter, the allegorical representative of vicious and sensual pleasure, 
a personage enacted by Lawes), and the Guardian Spirit, disguised as 
a shepherd, which part one pleases one's self in fancying may have 
been filled by the poet. The plot is exceedingly simple, rather lyric 
than dramatic. The delineation of passion forms no part of the poet's 
aim; and perhaps the very abstract and ideal nature of the charac- 
ters — their impersonality, so to say — adds to the intended effect by 
raising the mind of the reader into the pure and ethereal atmosphere 
of philosophical beauty. The dialogues are inexpressibly noble, not 
however as dialogues, for they must rather be regarded as a series of 
exquisite soliloquies setting forth, in pure and musical eloquence, like 
that of Plato, the loftiest abstractions of love and virtue. They have 
the severe and sculptural grace of the Grecian drama, but combined 
with the warmest coloring of natural beauty; for the frequent descrip- 
tions of rural objects possess tlie richness, the accuracy, and the fanci- 
fulness of Fletcher, of Jonson, or of Shakspeare himself. Though the 
dialogue itself be lyrical in its chai-acter, the songs interspersed are of 
consummate melody. For instance, the drinking chorus of Comus's 
rout, the Echo-song, and the admirable passages with which the At- 
tendant Spirit opens and concludes the piece. The general character 
of this production Milton undoubtedly bon^owed from Fletcher's Faiths 

A. D. 1608-1674.] JOHN MILTON. ^ 195 

Jtil Shepherdess, from Jonson's Masques and his delicious fragment of 
a pastoral drama, and probably also from the same Italian sources as 
had suggested to those great poets the general tone and construction 
of the pastoral allegory ; but in elevation, purity, and dignity, if not 
also in exquisite delineation of natural beauty, Milton has surpassed 
Fletcher and Jonson as much as they surpassed Tasso, or as Tasso had 
surpassed Guarini. In a somewhat similar strain to Cotntis, Milton 
composed a fragment entitled Arcades, performed at Harefield before 
the Countess of Derby by different members of that illustrious family. 
In this masque Milton wrote only the poetical portion, the rest of the 
entertainment, as was frequently the case on such occasions, being 
made up of dances, music, and scenic transformations. Though the 
portion contributed by the poet is comparatively inconsiderable, it 
exhibits all his usual characteristics. 

§ 7. The pastoral elegy entitled Lycidas was a tribute of affection £0 
the memory of Milton's friend and fellow-student Edward King, lost at 
sea in a voyage to Ireland, where he was about to vindertake the duties 
of a clergyman. He was a young man of virtue and accomplishments, 
and the pastoral form of elegy was not inappropriate either to symbolize 
early conformity of studies between him and his elegist, or to the pro- 
fession to which he was about to devote himself. In the general tone 
of the poem, and in the irregular and ever-vai-ying music of the verse, 
Milton imitated those Italian models with whose scholarlike and elab- 
orate spirit he was so deeply saturated. The poem is a Canzone, and 
one of which even the greatest poets of Italy might well have been 
proud. Throughout we meet with a mixture of rural description, 
classical and mythological allegory, and theological allusions borrowed 
from the Christian system ; and nothing is more singular than the skill 
with which the poet has combined such apparently discordant elements 
into one harmonious whole. The shock given to the reader's taste by 
this apparent incongruity is in a great measure softened away by the 
abstract and poetical air of the whole, by the art with which the transi- 
tions are managed, and in some degree by the exquisite descriptions of 
natural scenery, flowers, and the famous rivers immortalized by the 
great pastoral poets of antiquity. Nevertheless the ordinary reader is 
somewhat surprised to find St. Peter making his appearance among the 
sea-nj-mphs, and allusions to the corruptions of the Episcopal Church 
and the happiness of just met. made perfect brought into connection 
with the fables of Pagan mytnology. But the force of imagination 
and the exhaustless beauty of imagery which is displayed from the 
beginning to the end make the truly sensitive reader entirely forget 
what are inconsistencies only to the logical reasoning. In this poem 
we see how great was Milton's mastery over the whole scale of melody 
of which the English language is capable. From a solemn and psalm- 
like grandeur to the airiest and most delicate playfulness, every variety 
of music may be found in Lycidas ; and the poet has shown that our 
northern speech, though naturally harsh and rugged, may be made to 
echo the softest melodj of the Italian lyre. 

196} JOHN MILTON'. [Chap. XT. 

§ 8. The tvv'o descriptive poems L' Allegro and II Pcnseroso, as thay 
form a sort of pair of cabinet pictures, the one the complement and 
counterpart of the other, will be most advantageously examined under 
one head. They are of nearly the same length, written in the 
metre, and consisting, with the exception of a few longer and irregular 
lines of invocation at the beginning of each, of the short-rhymed octo- 
syllabic measure. In the Allegro the poet describes scenery and variovi^ 
occupations and amusements as contemplated by a man of joyous and 
cheerful temperament; in Wxe Penseroso not dissimilar objects viewed W^T" 

viduality of the poet is seen in the calm and somewhat grave cheerful- ■^■ 

hy a person of serious, melancholy, and studious character. The indi-^.. 

ness of the one, as well as in the tranquil though not sombre medita- 
tiveness of the other. His joy is without frivolity, as his melancholy 
is without gloom. It would be interesting to compare these two poem.s 
with minute detail, paragraph by paragraph; for every picture, almost 
every phrase, in the one corresponds, with close parallelism, to some- 
thing similar in the other. Thus the beautiful opening lines in whicli 
the poet drives away Melancholy to her congenial dwelling in hell, cor- 
respond to the opening of the Penseroso ; and the invocr.tion to Joy 
and her retinue of Quips and Cranks and wanton Wiles, Sport, Lib- 
erty, and Laughter, forms the pendant to the sublime impersonation of 
Melancholj', which is indeed in poetry what the Night of Michael An- 
gelo is in sculpture. The Cheerful Man is awakened by the lark, the 
cock, and the hunter's horn; and walks out, "by hedge-row elms 
and hillocks green," to see the gorgeous sunrise. The sounds and 
sights of early morning are represented with wonderful beauty and 
reality; and the gradual unfolding of the landscape, under the growing 
radiance of the dawn, is perfectly magical. We then have a charming 
picture of rustic life ; and this is succeeded by a village festival, where 
every line seems to bound responsive to the joyous bells and the sound 
of the rebeck. The day terminates with ghost stories and fairy legends 
related over the " nut-brown ale," round the farm-house fire. Having 
completed the picture of rural pleasures (in which, however, it should 
be remarked, the amusements of the chase forms no part), the poet 
goes on to describe the more courtly and elaborate pastimes of the 
great city — the tourney, the dance, the marriage feast; and the poem 
terminates with one of the most admirable of those many passages 
in which Milton has at once celebrated and exemplified the charms of 
music. Music was his favorite art : he inherited from his father an 
intense love for and no mean skill in it; it was afterwards his best — 
perhaps his highest — consolation in his poverty and blindness; and 
assuredly no poet in any language has shown such a deep sensibility to 
its enchantments. The passage in the Allegro in which he speaks of 
it is the most perfect representation that words have ever given of the 
consummate execution of the highest Italian vocal music. Among the 
pleasures of the city Milton has not forgotten the glories of the stage ; 
and here he pays a compliment to Jonson's " learned sock," and to the 
"wood-notes wild" of Shakspeare. In the Penseroso we have, instead 

A. D. 1608-1074.] JOHN MILTOK 197 

of the walk bj the bright dawn, the conten. illative wandering in the 
moonlit forest; the song of the nightingale, and the solemn sound of 
the curfew " over some wide -watered shore, swinging slow with sullen 
roar;" and the meditation over the glowing embers in some solitary 
chamber. The contemplative man passes the long watches of the 
night in penetrating the sublime mysterfes of philosophy with Plato, 
in studying the solemn scenes of the great dramatists of Greece, in fol- 
lowing the wild and wondrous legends of chivalric tradition and poetry; 
and the daily walk is amid the deep recesses of some fairy-haunted 
forest, where the imagination is filled with the half-seen glories beside 
some stream round which floats a mysterious music. The poem ends 
with an aspiration after an old age of hermit-like repose and contem- 

No analysis will give any idea of the immense riches of description 
with which these poems are crowded. There is hardly an aspect of 
external nature, beautiful or sublime, terrible or smiling, which is not 
• expressed here ; sometimes, as is ever the case in poetry of the highest 
order, in an incredibly condensed form. There are many examples of 
a whole picture exhibited in a single word, stamped with one inimitable 
expression, by a single stroke : as, for example, the " dappled dawn ; " 
the cock which " stoutly struts his damas before ; " the sun, at his rising, 
" robed in flames and amber light;" the hill " hoar with the floating 
mists of dawn; " the "fallows gray; " the towers of the ancient manor 
^'•bosomed high in tufted trees; " the '•'' tanned \\'^^yzoQ^^\" the peasants 
" dancing in the chequered shade." In like manner does the Pense- 
roso abound with inimitable examples of picturesque word-painting. 
What a figure is that of INIelancholy ! " all in a robe of darkest grain, 
flowing with majestic train," fixed in holy rapture, till she " forgets 
herself to marble; " and the song of Philomel " smoothing the rugged , 
brow of night ; " " the xvandering moon riding near her highest noon," 
and " stooping ihxQx^^ a fleecy cloud ! " All have seen this : how few 
have embodied it in verse! The glowing embers that "teach light to 
counterfeit a gloom;" or Tragedy '■'■ sweeping by in sceptred pall;" y 
the " iron tears" drawn down the cheek of Pluto by the song of Or- r^ 
pheus ; and "minute drops" falling as the shower passes away; the ^^ 
" high-embowed roof" and " storied windows" of a Gothic cathedral, \ 
with their " dim religious light." What poet has so vividly painted all 
that is most striking in nature and in art.? Be it remembered, too, that 
the strokes so rapidly enumerated are merely examples of happy ex- 
pressions concentrated into a single word. The two poems abound in 
pictures not inferior in beauty to these, but developed at a length which 
precludes my quoting them here. Indeed to quote the beauties of these 
two works would be to transcribe them from beginning to end. The 
Allegro and Penseroso have been justly called not so much poems as 
stores of imagery from which might be drawn materials for volumes 
of picturesque description. Like all Milton's works, admirable as 
they are in themselves, they are a thousand times more valuable for 
their peculiarly suggestive character — filling the mind, by allusion 

17 » 


198 JOHN MILTON. [Chap. XI. 

to other images, natural and artificial, with impressions of tendernesa 
or grandeur. 

§ 9. The Latin and Italian productions of Milton may not unsuitably 
be considered in th's place, as their composition belongs principally to -^^ 
the youth of the poet. In the felicity with which he has reproduced yJ 
the diction of classical antiquity, Milton has never had an equal among ^ 
the modern writers of Latin verse. Not even Buchanan, far less such""^ 
authors as Johannes Secundus, has reached a more consummate purity 
of expression, or attained — which is far more difficult — the stj'le of 
^r\WQ^\Q. thought^ and avoided the intrusion of modern ideas. He not 
only writes like Tibullus and Propertius, but he also feels like them : 
'We never meet with the incongruity of modern ideas clumsily masquer- 
ading in classical costume. The Elegies of Milton, however, graceful 
as they are, are less interesting than the E^pistolce addressed to his 
literary friends : as, for example, the exquisite Mansus, and the Latin 
verses to Charles Deodate. These, from their personal and intimate 
character, possess the charm of bringing us nearer to the thoughts, the 
tastes, and the individual occupations of the poet. They are totally 
free from that air of being a cc7ito or ti pasticcio, which is the prevailing 
defect of modern Latin poetry; their author seems always to think and . 
feel as well as to write in the language he employs. In many passages, • 
too, of these poems we see striking examples of that powerful concep- 
tion which distinguishes ISIilton ; as in his verses on the Gunfoivdcr 
Plot there are impersonations which give us a foretaste of the Paradise 
Lost. The Italian poems of Milton are chiefly sonnets, and exhibit 
the same acquaintance with the forms and spirit of that species of com- 
position, though perhaps hardly so much ease as the Latin works. 

As a writer of sonnets it would be unjust to try Milton by any other 
standard than by his English productions in this department. Though 
a few are pla^-ful and almost ludicrous in their subject, the majority 
of the sonnets are of that lofty, grave, and solemn character which 
6eems most congenial to the spirit of Milton. In the universal taste 
for imitating the types of Italian poetry, English writers, almost from 
the beginning of our literature, had cultivated this delicate exotic. ^ 
Sidney, Spenser, Shakspeare, and a host of inferior poets, had written 
sonnets, some of a very high degree of beauty; but it was reserved to 
Milton to transport into his native country the Italian sonnet in its . 
highest form. Macaulay justly observes that Milton's sonnets have / 
none of that enamel-like brilliancy of expression which marks the 
sonnets of Petrarch : they are also free from the cold and pedantic 
conceits, and from that tone of scholastic ingenuitj^ which frequently 
deform the conceptions of the lover of Laura. Milton's sonnets are 
hardly ever on the subject of love; religion, patriotism, domestic affec- 
tion, are his themes; and the great critic I have just quoted has most 
happily compared them to the Collects of the English Liturgy. 
Among the finest of them I may specify the following : I. To tJie NigJit- 
ingale ; VII. and VIII. containing a noble anticipation of his poetical 
glory; XIII. addressed to his friend Lawes, in which Milton at once 

A. D. 1608-1674.] JOHN MIL TO K 199 

describes and exemplifies the sweetness of Italian song; XVI. a noble 
recapitulation of Cromwell's victories ; XVIII. on the Massacre of the 
Piedmoiitdie Pyotestants ; XIX. on his ozvn bli?id?iess., one of the sub- 
limest as well as the most interesting from its personal subject; XX. a 
channing invitation to his friend Lawrence, describing the pleasures 
of an Attic and philosophic festivity. Both Horace and Juvenal have 
similar passages; and I know not whether Milton, though infinitelj* 
more concise, has not described more beautifully than thej the unbend- 
ing of a wise and cultivated mind. The XXIId. sonnet is on the same c^ 
subject as the XlXth., and the poet has treated his blindness in a no • 
less awful spirit of religious resignation mingled with patriotic pride. 
In the XXIIId. sonnet, which in spirit is not unlike many passages in 
the Vita Nuova of Dante, and will Ailly bear a comparison with the 
famous Levommi il mio Pensier of Petrarch, the poet describes a * 
dream in which he saw in a vision his second wife, whose death he so 
deeply deplored. 

§ 10. The second period of Milton's literary life is filled with politi- 
cal and religious controversy. In the very voluminous prose works 
belonging to this epoch we see at once the ardor of his convictions, the 
loftiness of his personal character, and the force and grandeur of his 
genius. Those who are unacquainted with his prose works are utterly 
incapable of forming an idea of the entire personality of Milton. 
Whether written in Latin or in English, these productions bear the 
stamp of his mind. They are crowded with vast and abstruse eitidi- 
tion ; and the learning is, as it Avere, fused into a burning mass by the 
fervor of enthusiasm. The prose stjie of Milton is remarkable for a 
weighty and ornate magnificence, which in any other hands would be 
cumbrous and pedantic, but under the burden of which he moves with 
as much ease as did the champions of the Round Table under their 
ponderous panoply. When lashed to anger by the calumnies directed 
against the pui-ity of his personal life, he gives us, in majestic eloquence, 
a picture of his own studies, labors, and literary aspirations, interest- 
ing in themselves, and striking from the beauty of the language. Glo- \^^ 
rious bursts of piety and patriotism, "a sevenfold chorus of halleluiaar^^'^ 
and harping symphonies," show him ever and anon rising to a super- V'^; 
human height. No style presents so hopeless a subject for imitation 
as that of Milton's prose. The immense length and involution of the 
sentences, its solemn, and stately march, defy all mimicry; conse- 
quently there is no style so characteristic of its author — none which 
so completely stands alone in literature. Even when writing English, 
Milton seems to think in Latin. His frequent inversions, and his gen- 
eral preference for words of Latin origin, contribute to make him in 
some respects the most Roman of all English authors. This quality, 
however, while it testifies to his learning and, his originality, has 
undoubtedly tended to exclude Milton's prose writings from that place 
among the popularly-read English classics to which their eloquence 
undoubtedly entitles them. There is no doubt that they are becoming 
every day better known to the general reader, and that their popularity 

200 JOHN FULTON-. [Chap. XI. 

is certain to extend still farther. The finest of them, at least the most 
calculated to attract the notice of the literary student, are the Areopa- 
gltica^ the Dcfensio Seamda, the Defcnsio Populi Anglicani^ ttie Reasons 
of Church Government urged against Prclaty, the Apology for Smec- 
ty})i)iuus, and the Tractate on Education. 

§ 11. There is no spectacle in the history of literature more touching 
and sublime than Milton blind, poor, persecuted, and alone, "fallen 
upon evil days and evil tongues, with dangers and with darkness com- 
passed round," retiring into obscurity to compose those immortal Epics 
which have placed him among the greatest poets of all time. The 
calm confidence with which he approached his task was the fruit of 
long meditation, profound study, and fei-vent prayer. The four great 
Epic Evangelists, if we may so call them -without irreverence, respec- 
tively sj-mbolize the four great phases of the history of mankind. \ 
Homer is the poetical representative of the boyhood of the human race^ -^fc^ 
Virgil of its manhood. These two typify the glory and the greatness s ^"^ 
of the antique world, as exhibited under its two most splendid form.s — ' 
the heroic age in Greece, and the majesty of Roman empii-e. Chris- . • 
tianity is the culminating fact in the history of mankind : it is like the \ ' 
mountain ridge from which diverge two rivers running in opposite 
directions. As the antique world produced two great epic types, so 
did Christianity — Dante and Milton. Dante represents the poetical 
side of Catjiolic, Miltonof Protestant Christianity ; Dante its infancj', its 
age of faith and heroism; Milton its virile age, its full development and 
exaltation. Dante is the Christian Homer, Milton the Christian Virgil. 
If the predominant character of Homer be vivid life and force, and of 
Virgil majesty and grace, that of Dante is intensity, that of Milton is 
sublimity. Even in the mode of representing their creations a strong 
contrast may be perceived : Dante produces liis effect by realizing the 
ideal, Milton by idealizing the real. 

The Paradise Lost was originally composed in ten Books or Cantos, 
which vv-ere afterwards so divided as to make twelve. Its composition, 
though the work was probably meditated long before, occupied about 
seven years; that is, from 1658 to 1665. I v/ill give a rapid analysis of 
the poem, condensed from Milton's own plan prefixed to the various 

t cantos. In Book /., after the proposition of the subject, the Fall of 
Man, and a sublime invocation, are described the council of Satan and 
'^ the infernal angels, their determination to oppose the designs of God 
%«- in the creation of the Earth and the innocence of our first parents, and 
the description of the erection of Pandemonium, the palace of Satan. 
Book II. describes the debates of the evil spirits, the consent of Satan 
to undertake the enterprise of temptation, his journey to the Gates of 
Hell, which he finds guarded by Sin and Death. Book III. transports 
us to Heaven, where, after a dialogue between God the Father and 
God the Son, the latter offers himself as a propitiation for the foreseen * 
disobedience of Adam. In the latter portion of this canto Satan meets 
Uriel, the angel of the Sun, and inquires the road to the new-created 
Earth, where, disguised as an angel of light, he descends. Book IV, 

A. D. 1608-1674.] JOHN MILTON. 201 

brin,s:s Satan to the sight of Paradise, and contains the picture of the 
innocence and happiness of Adam and Eve. The angels set a guard 
over Eden,' and Satan is arrested while endeavoring to tempt Eve in a 
dream. He is, however, allowed to escape. In Book V. Eve relates 
her dream to Adam, who comforts her; and they, after their morning 
prayer, proceed to their daily employment. They are visited by the 
angel Raphael, sent to warn them ; and he relates to Adam the story 
of the revolt of Satan and the disobedient angels. In Book VI. the 
narrative of Raphael is continued, and the triumph of the Son over the 
rebellious spirits. Book VII. is devoted to the account given by Ra- 
phael, at Adam's request, of the creation of the world. In Book VIII. 
is pursued the conference between the angel and Adam, who describes 
his own state and recollections, his meeting with Eve, and their union. 
The action of Book IX. is the temptation first of Eve, and then, 
through her, of Adam. Book X. contains the judgment and sentence, 
by the Son, of Adam and Eve, who are instructed to clothe themselves. 
Satan, triumphant, returns to Pandemonium, but not before Sin and 
Death construct a causeway through Chaos to Earth. Satan recounts 
his success, but Ls with all his angels transformed into serpents. Adam 
and Eve bewail their fault, and determine to implore pardon. Book 
XI. relates the acceptance of Adam's repentance by the Almighty, 
who, however, commands him to be expelled from Paradise. The 
angel Michael is sent to reveal to Adam the consequences of his trans- 
gression. Eve laments her exile from Eden, and Michael shows Adam 
in a vision the destiny of man before the Flood. Book XII. continues 
the prophetic picture shown to Adam by Michael of the fate of the 
human race from the flood. Adam is comforted by the account of the 
Redemption and rehabilitation of man, and by the destinies of the 
Church. The poem terminates with the wandering forth of our first 
par&nts from Paradise.^ 

The peculiar form of blank verse in which this poem, as well as the 
Paradise Regained^ is wi-itten, was, if not absolutely invented by Mil- 
ton, at least first employed by him in the narrative or epic form of 
poetry. Though consisting mechanically of precisely the same ele- 
ments as the dramatic metre employed by Shakspeare and his contem- 
poraries, this kind of verse acquires, in the hand of Milton, a music of 
a totally different tone and I'hythm. It is exceedingly solemn, digni- 
fied, and varied with such inexhaustible flexibility that the reader will 
hardly ever be able to find two verses of similar structure and accentu- 
a:ion — at least except at a considerable distance from each other. 
Every modification of metrical foot, every conceivable combination of 
emphasis, is employed to vary the harmony; and in this respect Milton 
has given to his metrical structure an ever-changing cadence, as beauti- 
ful in itself, and as delicately responsive to the impressions required to 
be conveyed, as can be found in the multitudinous billow-like harmonies 
of the Homeric hexameter, whose regular yet varied cadence has been 
so well compared to the roll of the ocean. 

§ 12. In the incidents and personages of the poem we find extreme 

202 JOHN MILTON. [Chap. XI. 

simplicity united with the richest complexity and inventiveness. Where 
it suited his purpose, Milton closely followed the severe condensation 
of the scriptural narrative, where the whole history of primitive man- 
kind is related in a few sentences ; and where his subject required him 
to give a loose to his invention, he showed that no poet ever surpassed 
him in fertility of conception. The description of the fallen angels, 
the splendors of Heaven, the horrors of Hell, the ideal yet natural love- 
liness of Paradise, exhibits not only a perception of all that is awful, 
sublime, or attractive in landscape and natural phenomena, but the 
power of overstepping the bounds of our earthly experience, and so 
realizing scenes of superhuman beauty or horror, that they are pre- 
sented to the reader's eye with a vividness rivalling that of the memory 
itself. The characters introduced, the Deity and His celestial host, 
Satan and his infernal followers, and, perhaps, above all the ideal and 
heroic, yet intensely human personages of our first Parents in their 
state of innocence, bear witness alike to the fertility of Milton's inven- 
tion, the severity of his taste, and the loftiness of what we may style 
his artistic morality. In Dante and Tasso the evil spirits, powerfully 
and picturesquely as they may be described, are composed of the com- 
mon elements of popular superstition : they are monsters and bugbears, 
with horns, and tails, and eyes of glowing braise : and in their action 
we see nothing but savage malignity exaggerated to colossal propor- 
tions. Milton's Satan is no caricature of the popular demon of vulgar 
superstition : he is not less than Archangel, though archangel ruined ; 
and in him, as well as in his attendant spirits, the poet has given sub- 
limity as well as variety to his infernal agencies, by investing them 
with the most lofty or terrible attributes of the divinities of classical 
mythology. In employing this artifice he was able to pour out upon 
this department of his subject all the wealth of his incomparable learn- 
ing, and to make his descriptions as suggestive as they are beautiful. 
Indeed, the mode by which he impresses the imagination is partly 
derived from the power, grandeur, and completeness of his own con- 
ceptions, and partly by the indirect allusions wherein his subsidiary 
illustrations revive in our minds all the impressions left in them by 
natural beauty, by the finest passages of other poets, and by all that is 
most striking in art, in history, and in legend. Milton is pre-emi- 
nently the poet of the learned ; for however imposing may be his pic- 
tures even to the most uncultivated intellect, it is only to a reader 
familiar with a large extent of classical and Biblical reading that he 
displays his full powers. Of him may be eminently said that " he who 
reads, and to his reading brings not" a spirit, if not equal yet trained 
at least in somewhat similar discipline as his own, the half of his beau- 
ties will be imperceptible. In the personages and characters of Adam 
and Eve he has solved perhaps the most difficult problem presented by 
his undertaking — that of representing two human beings in a position 
which no other human beings ever did or ever can occupy; and en- 
dowed with such feelings and sentiments as they alone could have 
experienced. They are beings worthy of the Paradise they inhabit; 

A. D. 1608-1674.] JOHN MILTON. 203 

and though raised to heroic and ideal proportions, their moral and 
intellectual qualities are such as we can understand and consequently 
sympathize with. There is nothing more admirable than the intense 
humanity with which Milton has clothed them ; while at the same time 
they are truly ideal impersonations of love, innocence, and worship. 
Like the finest relics of ancient sculpture, or the consummate works of 
early Italian j^ainting, they reach the full majesty of the divine without 
forfeiting the huinan and the real. 

In the conduct and development of the plot of his poem Milton unites 
the merits of simplicity and complexity. He follows closely, when it 
suits his purpose, the severe concision of the Biblical narrative, and at 
the same time gives a loose to his mighty invention in the scenes of 
Hell, of Heaven, and particularly in the episodical description of the 
revolt and punishment of the Fallen Angels. It has been objected that 
Adam is only the nominal hero o{ Paradise Lost, and that the real pro- 
tagonist is Satan ; and it is certainly true that the necessarily inferior 
nature of man, as compared with the tremendous agencies of which he 
is the sport, reduces him, apparently at least, to a secondary part in the 
drama; but this difficulty is surmounted by the dignity and moral ele- 
vation which Milton has given to his human personages, and by his 
making them the central pivot round which revolves the whole action. 
To speak of particular passages, either of sentiment or description, in 
which Milton exhibits beauty or sublimity, would be quite inappropriate 
in an essay whose limits are confined : I may remark, that in every 
instance where his imagination and plastic power are seen at work, we 
find him at once soaring from the sensible into the abstract. 

If the genius of Dante be eminently analytic, that of Milton is as 
obviously synthetic : where the former takes captive your credulity by 
the intense realization — often attained by the most matter-of-fact 
details of measurement or comparison — of the awful objects which he 
sets, as it were, before your bodily eye, the latter hurries your imagina- 
tion into the realms of the ideal by suggesting what you dimly conceive 
rather than have ever seen. Thus in a somewhat parallel passage of 
the two poets, Dante, wishing to convey the conception of the size of a 
monstrous giant, gives you an exact measurement of some of its parts, 
and compares them to some well-known and familiar object; IVIilton, 
on the other hand, makes the giant bulk of the thunder-smitten demon 
lie extended " many a rood " upon the burning billows, and instantly 
goes off into picturesque details of the "small night- foundered skiff"" 
moored to the scaly rind of the whale to which Satan is compared : or 
again, in that passage of unequalled grandeur where the evil spirit 
defies the archangel who has detected him : — 

" On the other side, Satan, alarmed, 
Collecting all his might, dilated stood, 
Like Teneriffe or Atlas, unremoved. 
His stature reached the sky, and on his crest 
Sat horror plumed." 

The whole poem is crowded with similar examples of the idealizing 

204 JOHN MILTON. [Chap. Xr 

tendency, which no poet ever possessed in an equal degree, and which 
is alwajs united with Milton's peculiar taste for illustrating his pictures 
by means of subsidiary allusions suggesting the finest and most impos- 
ing objects in art, in legend, in nature, and in poetry. 

§ 13. The companion-poem to the great Epic, the Odyssey to the 
Christian Iliad, is the Paradise Regamed. It is much shorter than the 
first work, and consists of only Four Books or Cantos. The subject is 
the Temptation of Christ by Satan in the Wilderness ; and the poet has 
closely followed the narrative of that incident, as recorded in the fourth 
chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel. It is, however, evident that the only 
event comparable in importance to the Fall of Man was the Redemption 
of Man through the voluntary sacrifice of the Saviour; and that the 
Cross is the natural counterpart to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good 
and Evil ; Calvary the true pendant to Eden. It is uncertain whether 
to attribute to advanced age or the consciousness of failing powers 
Milton's selection for the subject of his second epic, of an event in the 
history of Our Lord which, however important in itself, is unquestion- 
ably far less momentous than the consummation oi the great act of 
human redemption. Some have ascribed this choice to certain modifi- 
cations of belief experienced by the poet in the decline of life, and 
which prevented him from selecting the Crucifixion as a subject. Into 
this mysterious question it would be misplaced to enter here ; I will 
content mj^self with noting that the universal consent of readers places 
the Paradise Regaitied, in point of interest and variety, very far below 
the Paradise Lost. The inferiority of interest is, of course, attributable 
to its want of action ; the whole poem being occupied with the argu- 
ments carried on between Christ and the Tempter, and the description 
of the kingdoms of the earth as contemplated from the summit of the 
mountain. Even in Paradise Lost the long and sublime dialogues, 
frequently turning on the most arduous subtleties of theology, though 
they probably enjoyed a great popularity in Milton's own day, when 
such subjects formed topics of universal discussion, are now often found 
to be tedious ; but in that poem they are relieved by the perpetual inter- 
ference of action. In Paradise Regained the genius of Milton appears 
in its ripest and completest development : the self-restraint of consum- 
mate art is everywhere apparent; and in the descriptions of Rome, 
Athens, Babylon, and the state of society and knowledge, the great poet 
has reached a height of solemn grandeur which shows him to have 
lost nothing either of imagination or of learning. Nevertheless the 
effect of the poem upon the general reader is less powerful than that of 
Paradise Lost. A rapid analysis of the poem would be as follows : — 
Book I. After being baptized, Jesus ofiers to undertake the defeat of the 
plans meditated by Satan. He retires into the wilderness. Satan ap- 
pears under the disguise of an old peasant, and endeavors to justify 
himself. Book II. contains a consultation of the evil spirits, after 
which Satan tempts Our Lord with a banquet and afterwards with 
riches. In Book ILL Satan pursues his attempts, endeavoring to excite 
ambition in the mind of the Saviour, and shovv's him the kingdoms of 


Asia. Book IV. exhibits the greatness of Rome and the intellectual 
glories of Athens ; and Our Lord, after being conveyed back to the 
desert, is exposed to a pitiless storm ; Satan again appears, and, after 
carrying him to the pinnacle of the Temple, is again defeated and 
reduced to silence. The poem terminates with a triumphant hymn of 
the angels ministering to our Lord after His fast. In grandeur, ele- 
vation, and a kind of subdued sentiment, the Paradise Regai7icd in no 
sense fields to its immortal companion ; but in brilliancy of coloring 
and intensity of interest it is inferior. It may be said that the beauties 
of Paradise Regained v/ill generally be more perceptible as the reader 
advances in life, and to those minds in which the contemplative faculty 
is more developed than the imagination. 

§ 14. To this, the closing period of Milton's literary career, belongs 
the Tragedy of Samson Agonisies, constructed according to the strictest 
rules of the Greek classical drama. In the character of the hero, his 
blindness, his sufferings, and his resignation to the will of God, Milton 
has given a most touching embodiment of himself. As in the Greek 
tragedies, the action is simple, the persons few, the statuesque severity 
of the dialogue is relieved by majestic outbursts of lyric verse placed in 
the mouth of the Chorus, and the catastrophe, which could not be 
represented worthilj^ on the stage, is, after the Greek fashion, related 
by a messenger. The whole piece breathes the somewhat harsh but 
lofty patriotism and religion of the Old Testament, and the lyric- 
choruses are sometimes inexpressibly sublime. So closely has Milton 
copied all the details, literary as well as mechanical, of the ancient 
dramas, that there is no exaggeration in saying that a modern reader 
will obtain a more exact impression of what a Greek tragedy was, from 
the study of Sajnson Agonisies, than from the most faithful translation 
of Sophocles or Euripides. The ancient tragedies had alwaj^s a reli- 
gious or mythological element; and the Biblical character, for us, has 
a sanctity like that of the heroic legends for a Greek ; and therefore 
Samson is to us a personage not dissimilar to what Prometheus or 
Hercules would have been to a Greek. 



Closely connected, principally in a political, but 
in some degree also in a literary relation, with ]Mil- 
ton, is the truly venerable name of Andkew Mak- 
VKLL (1G20-1678). He was born in 1620, educated at 
Cambridge, and employed the earlier part of his 
life in the diplomatic service, having been for some 
time attached to the English embassy at Constanti- 
nople. He afterwards gave instruction in the family 
of Fairfax, and was recommended by Milton to the 
President Bradshaw as a person very fit to be joined 

Secretary. This appointment he obtained, though 
not till some time after, in 1G57 ; and Marvell appears 
to have all along entertained the strongest admira- 
tion for his great colleague ; an admiration founded 
on community of taste as well as conformity in 
political and religious opinions. Not long before 
the Restoration Marvell »was sent to the House of 
Commons as representative for the town of ifull, 
and down to his death, in 1G78, he continued to fulfil 
the duties of a good patriot and an lionest man. 
Many striking anecdotes are related of his incor- 
ruptible integrity', of the constancy with which he 

■witli himself in the executiou of his office of Latin i resisted both the menaces and the caresses of the 




Court, of whose arbitrary proceedings he was a vig- 
orous opponent. But though many of these stories 
do not rest upon very good authority, their general 
similarity proves the character he enjoyed not only 
for virtue but for a pleasant and festive wit. He is 
said not to have been eloquent, but to have been 
listened to by all parties with respect; and his char- 
acter seems to have conspicuously combined the 
severest rectitude with good nature and intelligence. 
He took an active part in the controversies of the 
day, and in several pamphlets powerfully denounced 
the arbitrary and papistical tendencies of the gov- 
ernment. His works contain many interesting 
details of his long and familiar intercourse with 
Milton. He also deserves an honorable place among 
the minor poets of his time. His Lamentation of 
the Xijivph on the Death of her Fawn, his song of 
The Eniigranta (the Puritan exiles) to Bermuda, 
his Thoughts in a Garden, are full of sweet and 
pleasant fancies, and exhibit a great delicacy of ex- 
pression, often exquisite from its very quaintness ; 
as, for example, where he represents the oranges 
hanging in the tropic shade " like golden lamps in 
a green light," or, again, the fawn which " trod as 
if on the four winds," a most delicate hyperbole. 
In his satirical verses on the Dutch he has a droll 
exaggeration and ingenious buffoonery; many of 
the ideas are worthy of the quaint and learned 
fancy of Butler. It is difficult to find a more com- 
plete contrast than that presented by the conduct of 
Mar\'ell as compared with that of Waller. They 
were both men of rare attainments ; but while Mar- 
vell will always remain the type of the honest, in- 
corruptible politician, faithful to his convictions, 
and the warm advocate of liberty and toleration. 
Waller is the ideal of the cowardly and selfish time- 

Another political writer of this period is James 
Hakeington (I6H-1677), the author of the once 
famous republican theory embodied in the Oceana, 
which may be regarded as forming the counterpart 
to Ilobbes's monarchical scheme of the Leviathan. 
He was learnedly brought up at Oxford, where he is 
said to have been the disciple of Chillingworth, and 
for a long time resided abroad in the diplomatic 
service, being at various times attached to the lega- 
tions in Holland, Denmark, the Hague, and Venice. 
He was appointed one of the attendants upon King 
Charles I., when that unfortunate prince was a pris- 
oner in the hands of the Parliament in I&17 ; and 
succeeded in inspiring the captive sovereign with 
feelings of confidence and attachment. He himself 
felt strong admiration for those high qualities of 
patience and magnanimity which misfortune devel- 
oped in Charles's character. His great work, the 
Oceana, was published in 1356. It contains an 
elaborate project for the establishment of a pure 
republic upon philosophical principles, carried out 
to those minute details which are so frequently met 
•rtth in paper constitutions, and which are so iui- 

practicable when attempted to be put in actual exe- 
cution. His organization is based upon landed 
property, which, he maintains, is the only solid 
foundation for power; and the distinguishing 
characteristic of his plan is the principle of an elec- 
tive administration, whose members are to go out 
of office by a complicated system of rotation. His 
ejcposition is clear and logical, but the method he 
proposes has the never-failing defect of all these 
scientific systems of ideal constitution-makers, viz., 
that of calculating upon results as if they could be 
predicted with unerring certainty upon mathemati- 
cal premises. Political projectors, from Plato down 
to the Abb6 Siey^s, invariably forget that they have 
to do with the capricious elements of human nature, 
and not with ciphers or the unvarying forces of 
inanimate nature. Harrington was the founder of 
the celebrated Rota Club; a society of political 
enthusiasts who met to discuss their theories, and to 
which belonged most of the philosophical repub- 
licans of that day — the Girondins of our English 
Revolution. In these discussions Harrington's 
mind was so heated that at last his reason gave way 
while undergoing an imprisonment to which he had 
been condemned ; and in 1C77 he died, after having 
been liberated from confinement and restored to 
the care of his friends in consideration of his in- 

Algeenon Sidney (1621-1683), another celebrat- 
ed republican writer, the son of Robert, Earl of 
Leicester, and executed in the reign of Charles 11., 
wrote a work entitled Discourses on Government, 
which was not published till 1698. It is a refutation 
of the patriarchal theory which is most fully pro- 
pounded in the Patriarcha of SlE RoiiEET FiL- 
MEK, written in the reign of Charles I., but not 
published till 1680. Filmer's fundamental principle 
is, that the paternal authority is absolute, and that 
the first kings, being fathers of families, have trans- 
mitted this power to their descendants. Filmer's 
work was answered by Locke immediately after the 
Revolution (p. 272). 

Our Revolution, so fertile in striking events and 
great orators, statesmen, and soldiers, was not with- 
out many noble instances of virtue and intellect 
exhibited by women. On the side of the fiiends of 
liberty appear two female figures glowing with the 
purest radiance — those of LADY Rachel Russele, 
wife of the illustrious patriot and mart3'r, and of 
LtJOY HCTcniNSON, perhaps the most perfect idea 
of conjugal affection and constancy. Both occupy 
an honorable place in the literature of their times ; 
the former by the admirable collection of letters 
written to her friends after the cruel bereavement 
she so nobly supported, and the latter by the me- 
moirs which are among the most valuable and 
interesting documents of that agitated time. Lady 
Russell, whose husband was executed in 1683, sur- 
vived till 1725, and her correspondence was collected 
and published after her deatlu 




§ 1. Samtjel Butler : his life. § 2. Subject and nature of Hudibras. $ 3. But- 
ler's miscellaneous uTitings. § 4. John Dryden : his life. § 5. His dramas. 
§ 6. His poems. Absalom and Achitophel. The Medal. Mac-Flec/aioe. 
§ 7. Religio Laid and the Hind and Panther. § 8. Odes. Translations of 
Juvenal and Virgil. § 9. Fables. § 10. Dryden's prose works. ^ 11. John 
BuxYAN : his life. § 12. His works. Grace abotinditig in the Chief of Si)i- 
ners. § 13. The Pihjrini's Progress. § 14. The Holy War. § 15. Edward 
Hyde, Earl of Clareneox. ^ His Hintorrj of the Great Rebellion, ^ 17. 
IzAAK Walton. His Lives and Complete Angler. § 18. Marquess of Hal- 
ifax. John Evelyn. § 19. Samuel Pepys. § 20. Sir Roger L 'Estrange. 

§ 1. If the greatest name among the Puritan and Repixblican party 
be that of Milton, the most illustrious literary representative of the 
Cavaliers is certainly Samuel Butler (i6i 2-1680). However opposed 
in political opinions, and however different in the nature of their works, 
these two men have some points of resemblance, in the vastness of an 
almost universal erudition, and in the immense quantity of thought 
which is embodied in their writings. The life of Butler was melan- 
choly; the great wit was incessantly persecuted by disappointment and 
distress ; and he is said to have died in such indigence as to have been 
indebted for a grave to the pity of an admirer. He was born of respec- 
table but not wealthy parentage in 1612, and began his education at 
Worcester Free School. Great obscurity rests upon the details of his 
career : thus there are contradictory traditions as to whether he studied 
at Oxford or at Cambridge, or even whether he enjoyed the advantages 
of a University training at all. In all probability the latter supposition 
is the truth, and lack of means deprived him of any lengthened oppor- 
tunity of acquiring, at either University, any portion of that immense 
learning which his works prove him to have possessed. As a j'oung 
man he performed the office of clerk to Jeffries, a country^ Justice of the 
Peace; and there is no doubt that he made himself acquainted with 
the details of English law procedure. He was afterwai-ds — most likely 
by the protection of Seiden, who knew and admired his talents, and 
who is said to have employed him as an amanuensis — preferred to the 
service of the Countess of Kent, in whose house Seiden long resided, 
and to whom indeed he is said to have been secretly married. Here 
Butler enjoyed one of the few gleams of sunshine that cheered his 
unhappy lot; he possessed good opportunities for study in tranquil 
retirement, and he had the advantage of conversing with accomplished 
men. It is nearly certain that he was for some time in the service — 
in the capacity of tutor or clerk — of Sir Samuel Luke, a wealthy and 
powerful county magnate, and who ^igured prominently in those trou- 


bled times as a violent republican member of Parliament, and as one 
of Cromwell's provincial satraps, half military and half political. In 
the house of Luke, who was an ardent fanatic, Butler had the oppor- 
tunity of accumulating those innumerable traits of bigotry and absur- 
dity which he afterwards interwove into his great satire on the Puritans 
and Independents ; and Luke himself, it seems almost indubitable, was 
the original of Butler's inimitable caricature of Hudibras, in which he 
embodies all that was odious, ridiculous, and vile in the politics and 
religion of the dominant party. His great work, the burlesque satire 
oi Hudibras, was published in detached portions and at irregular inter- 
vals : the first part, containing the first three cantos, in 1663, the second 
part in the following year, and the third not until 1678. Though com- 
posed, in all probability, long before, the first instalment of this inimi- 
table satire was obliged to await the Restoration to make its first 
appearance ; for it was only that event, by inaugurating the triumphs 
of Butler's loyal opinions, that could have secured the author from seri- 
ous danger. The poem instantly became the most popular book of the 
age; for it gratified at once the taste for the liighest wit and ingenuity', 
and the vindictive triumph of the Royalists over their enemies and 
tyrants. Chai-les II., with all his vices, was a man who could appre- 
ciate wit and learning. He carried about Hudibras in his pocket, was 
incessantly quoting and admiring it, and Butler's poem became as fash- 
ionable at court as the not superior satire of Rabelais had been in a 
former age. Very little solid recompense, however, accn.ied to Biitler 
for his work. He was named Secretary to Lord Carburj'^, and in that 
capacity held for some time the ofiice of Steward of Ludlow Castle, 
where the Comics of Milton had been presented before the Earl of 
Bridgewater by his accomplished children ; but soon after Butler lost 
this place. It is said that Clarendon, then Chancellor, and Bucking- 
ham, as well as the King, had intended to do sometliing for the illus- 
trious supporter of their cause ; but that a sort of fatality combined 
with the usual ingi^titude of that profligate court to leave Butler in his 
former poverty; and the great wit is reported to have died, in extreme 
poverty, in a miserable lodging in Rose Street, Covent Garden (1680). 
He was buried, at the expense of his friend and admirer, Longue\^ille, 
in the churchyard of St. Paul's in that poor neighborhood. 

§ 2. Butler's principal title to immortality is his burlesque poem of 
Hudibras, a satire upon the vices and absurdities of the fanatic or 
republican party, and particularly of the two dominant sects of the 
Presbyterians and Independents. It is indeed to the English Common- 
wealth Revolution what the satire Menippee is to the troubles and 
intrig-ues of the League. Its plan is perfectly original, though the lead- 
ing idea may be in some measure referred to the Don Quixote of Cer- 
rantes ; but as the object of Butler was totally different from that of 
the immortal Spanish humorist, so the execution is so modified as to 
leave the English work all the glory of complete novelty. The aim of 
Cervantes was to make us laugh at the extravagances of his hero, but 
without losing our love and respect for his noble and heroic character; 

A. D. i6i2-i6So.] SAMUEL BUTLER. 209 

that of Butler was to render his personages as odious and contempti- 
ble as was compatible with- the sentiment of the ludicrous. Don Quix- 
ote, though never ceasing to be laughable, is in the highest degree 
amiable and respectable : indeed it is only the discordance between 
his lofty chivalric sentiments and the low and prosaic incidents which 
surround him, that makes him ridiculous at all. Transport him to the 
age of the Round Table, and he is worthy to ride by the side of Lance- 
lot or Galahad. Butler's hero — the combination of all that is uglj', 
cowardly, pedantic, selfish, and hypocritical — is on the very verge of 
being an object, not of ridicule, but of hatred and detestation ; and 
hatred and detestation are tragic and not comic feelings. Butler has 
shown consummate skill in stopping short just where his aim required 
it. All comic writing, the object of which is to excite laughter, attains 
its effect by the principle of discordance or disharmony between its 
subject and treatment; for as harmony is a fundamental principle of 
the beautiful, so is discord a fundamental principle of the ludicrous : 
consequently comic representations, whether written, painted, or sculp- 
tured, naturally divide themselves into two categories, both attaining 
their end by the same principle, though exliibiting that principle in tWT> 
diiferent ways. In ^ne we have a lofty and elevated subject intention- 
ally treated in a low and prosaic manner; in the other a low and prosaic 
subject treated in a lofty and pompous manner; and in either <:ase the 
contrast, or discord, between the subject and the treatment, being sud- 
denly presented to the imagination, provokes that mysterious emotion 
which we call the sense of the ludicrous. In the former case is pro- 
duced what we name Burlesque, in the second what we designate MSck- 

The poem of Hudibras describes the adventures of a fanatic Justice 
of the Peace and his clerk, who sally forth to put a stop to the amuse- 
ments of the common people, against which the Rump Parliament had 
in reality passed many violent and oppressive acts. Not only were the 
theatres suppressed, and all cheerful amusements proscribed, during 
that gloomy time, but the rougher pastimes of the lower classes, among 
which bear-baiting was one of the most favorite, were violently sup- 
pressed by authority. The celebrated story of Colonel Pride causing 
the bears to be shot by a file of soldiers furnished the enemies of the 
Puritan government with inexhaustible materials for epigram and 
caricature. Be it observed that these severe measures were in no 
degree prompted by any motive drawn from the brutal cruelty of the 
sport, but simply from a systematic hostility to everything that bore a 
semblance of gayety and amusement. Sir Hudibras, the hero of Butler, 
and who, as already remarked, is in all probability a caricature of Sir 
Samuel Luke, is described, both in his person and equipment, and in his 
moral and intellectual features, as a combination of pedantry, cow- 
ardice, ugliness, and hypocrisy, such as, for completeness, oddity of 
imagery, and richness of grotesque illustration, no comic writer, neither 
Lucian, nor Rabelais, nor Voltaire, nor Swift, has surpassed. He is 
the tj'pe or representative of the Presb^-terian party. His clerk Ralph 


— the Sancho PanQa of this odious Qiiixote— is the satiric portrait of 
the sour, wrong-headed, but more enthusiastic Independent sect. The 
versification adopted bj Butler, as well as the name of his hero, is 
drawn from the old Anglo-NoiTnan Trouvere poets, and the L'egends of 
the Round Table ; and the baseness of the incidents, the minuteness of 
the details, and the long dialogues between the personages, form a 
parody the comic impression of which is heightened when we think of 
the stately incidents of which the poem is a burlesque. Sallying forth 
to stop the popular amusements, Sir Hudibras and his Squire encoun- 
ter a procession of ragamuffins conducting a bear to the place of 
combat. They refuse to disperse at the summons of the knight, when 
a furious mock-heroic battle ensues, in which, after varying fortunes, 
Hudibras is victorious, and succeeds in incarcerating in the parish 
stocks the principal delinquents. Their comrades return to the charge, 
liberate them, and place in dui*ance in their stead the Knight and 
Squire, who are in their turn liberated by a rich widow, to whom Sir 
Hudibras, purely from interested motives, is paying his court. Hudi- 
bras afterwards visits the lady, and i-eceives a sound beating from her 
'Servants disgoiised as devils ; and he afterwards consults a lawyer and 
an astrologer to obtain revenge and satisfaction. The merit, however, 
and the interest of this extraordinary poem by no means consist in its 
plot. Such incidents as are introduced are indeed described with 
exti-aordinary animation and a grotesque richness of invention ; but 
there is a complete want of unity and connection of interest, and there 
cannot be traced any general combination of events into an intrig\ie, 
or leading to a catastrophe. 

A long interval elapsed between the publication of the first and last 
canto, and in that interval the politics of the day had undergone a 
complete change. Butler, whose main object was to satirize the follies 
and wickedness of the reigning party, was obliged to direct his shafts 
against quite other vices and totally different persons : thus in the last 
canto he describes the general breaking up of the Rump Parliament, 
and the events immediately preceding the Restoration. His poem in 
general, like the adventure of the Bear and Fiddle which it contains, 
" begins, and breaks off in the middle." But no reader probably ever 
regretted the irregular and undecided march of the story; for the 
pleasure given by Hudibras is quite independent of the gratification 
of that kind of curiosity which finds its aliment in a well-developed 
intrigue. The astonishing fertility of invention displayed in the de- 
scriptions both of things and pei-sons, the analysis of character exhib- 
ited in the long and frequent dialogues (principally' between Hudibras 
and Ralph), the vivid and animated painting of the incidents, and 
above all the immeasurable flood of witty and unexpected illustra- 
tion which is poured forth throughout the whole poem — these are 
the qualities which have made Butler one of the great classics of 
the English language. Wit is the power of tracing unexpected analo- 
gies,' whether of difference or resemblance; the faculty of bringing 
together ideas, apparently incongruous, but between which, when so 

A. D. i6i2-i6So.] SAMUEL BUTLER. 2U 

brought together, the ordinary mind, though itself totally incapable of 
bringing them into contact, at once perceives their relation ; and this 
perception, suddenly excited, is accompanied by a flash of pleasure and 
surprise. From the juxtaposition of the two poles of the galvanic wire, 
each previously cold and inert, darts forth a lightning-like spark of 
heat and radiance. The reader, being made the conducting body of 
this magic flash of wit, feels for the moment all the pleasure of the 
discoverer of the hidden relation. This power of associating ideas and 
images apparently incongruous, no author ever possessed in so high a 
degree as Butler; his learning was portentous in its extent and variety: 
and he appears to have accumulated his vast stores, not only in the 
beaten tracks, but in the most obscure corners and out-of-the-way 
regions of books and sciences. The amount of thought as well as 
reading he displays is almost terrifying to the mind; and he surprises 
not only by the unexpected images supplied by his immense reading, 
but quite as often by what is suggested by his fertile and ever-working 
imagination. The effect of the whole is augmented by the easy, rat- 
tling, conversational tone of his language, in which the most colloquial, 
familiar, and even vulgar expi-essions are found side by side with the 
pedantic terms of art and learning. The metre, too, is singularly 
happy; the short octosyllable verse carries us on w-Ith unabating 
rapidity; and the perpetual recurrence of odd and fantastic rhymes, 
whose ingenuity is artfully concealed under an appe6.rance of the most 
unstudied ease, produces a series of pleasant shocks that awaken and 
satisfy the attention. 

Butler is at once intensely concise and abundantly rich. His expres- 
sions, taken singly, have the pregnant brevity of proverbs ; while the 
fertility of his illustrations is perpetually opening new vistas of comic 
and witty association. He is as suggestive in his manner of writing as 
Milton himself; but while our great epic poet fills the mind, by indirect 
allusion, with all images that are graceful, awful, or sublime, Butler 
brings to bear upon his satiric pictures an unbounded store of ideas 
drawn from the most recondite sources. Milton leads the reader's 
mind to wander through all the realms of nature, philosophy, and art; 
Butler brings the stores of his knowledge and reading to our door. It 
is this marvellous condensation in his style, combined with the quaint- 
ness of his rhymes, that have caused so many of Bui er's couplets to 
become proverbial sayings in common conversation, ana to be frequent- 
ly employed by people who perhaps do not know whence these sparkling 
fiigments of wit and wisdom are derived. The contrast of characteri- 
in Hudibras and Ralph is of course far less dramatic than that between 
Don Qiiixote and his inimitable Squire ; j'et the delicacy and vivacity 
with which Butler has distinguished between two cognate varieties of 
pedantry and fanaticism are worthy of great admiration. The sophis- 
tries and rascally equivocations which abound in the long arguments 
between the Knight and his attendaj^.t are admirable. It is not to be 
expected that Butler, whose object was exclusively satirical, should 
have taken into consideration any of the noblei qualities of the fanatics 


whom he attacked ; and therefore we must not be surprised to find their 
intense religious zeal painted otherwise than as hypocritical greed, and 
their undoubted courage transformed into cowardice. The poem is 
crowded wnth allusions to particular persons and events of the Civil 
War and Commonwealth ; and consequently its merits can be fully 
appreciated only by those who are acquainted with the minute histoi-y 
of the epoch, for which reason Butler is eminently one of those authors 
who require to be studied with a commentary; yet the mere ordinary 
reader, though many delicate strokes will escape him, may gather from 
Hudibras a rich harvest of wisdom and of wit. | However specific be 
the direction of much of the satire, a very large proportion will always 
be applicable as long as there exist in the world hypocritical pretenders 
to sanctity, and quacks in politics or learning. Many of the scenes and 
conversations are universal portraitures ; as, for example, the consulta- 
tion with the lawyer, the dialogues on love and man-iage with the lady, 
^ the scenes with Sidrophel, and a multitude of others. From Butler's 
writings alone there would be no difficulty in drawing abundant illus- 
trations of all the varieties of wit enumei*ated in Barrow's famous 
enumeration: the "pat allusion to a known stoiy, the seasonable ap- 
plication of a trivial saying; the pla>'ing in words and phrases, takings 
advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their 
sound. Sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humoix>us expression; ^" 
sometimes it lurks under an odd similitude ; sometimes it is lodged in qr*^ 
sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd inti- 
mation, in cunningly diverting or clevei^Iy retorting an objection ; some- 
times it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a 
lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of 
contradictions, or in acute nonsense; sometimes an affected simplicity, 
sometimes a presumptuous bluntness, giveth it being; sometimes it 
riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is sti'unge, sometimes from 
a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose." 

§ 3. A large mass of Butler's miscellaneous writings has been pub- 
lished ; and a curious discovery was made, long after his death, of the 
commonplace book in which he entered the results of his reading, and 
such thoughts and expressions as he intended to work up into his -^\^ 
writings. The posthumous miscellanies consist of prose and verse. ~^^ 
Among the former are sketches of a series of chai'acters somewiiat in 
the manner of Theophrastus, Fuller, More, and Feltham. They are 5"^ 
marked by that extreme pregnancy of wit and allusion which is so ^ 
characteristic of his genius. The poems are in many instances bitter 
ridicule of the puerile pursuits which he attributes to the physical 
investigations of that day, and he is particularly severe upon the then v 

recently-founded Royal Society; but he seems to be unjvist to the ardor '*^^: 
and success with which such researches were then carried on, and to i v 
have confounded with the sublime outburst of experimental philosophy i" 
the quackery and pedantry with which such movements are necessarily ^^^_^_ 
§ 4. The great name of John Drydek (1631-1700) forms the con' 

A.D. 1631-1700.] JOHN DR YD EN, 213 

necting link between the English literature of the seventeenth century 
and the completely different turn of thought and style of writing which 
were introduced at the Restoration. His life in its general features 
occupies the quarter of a century succeeding that of Butler. He was 
born, of an ancient and wealthy county family, in 1631, and his father 
being an ardent Puritan, it is not surprising that he should have entered 
upon his literary career a partisan of the same religious and political 
doctrines, and gained *his first laurels by composing, in heroic stanzas, 
a warm eulogium on Cromwell. He was solidly educated, first under 
the famous Busby at Westminster School, and afterwards at Trinity 
College, Cambridge. At the approach of the Restoration he aban- 
doned, as was to' be expected, his predilections in favor of Puritanism, 
and attached himself thenceforward to the Royalist party, which was 
not only more likely to reward literary and poetical merit, but the spirit 
of which was an atmosphere far more congenial to his character. The 
whole life of Dryden is filled with vigorous and unremitting literary 
labor, and presents but few events unconnected with the successive 
composition of his works. Theatrical pieces were then the best- 
rewarded and productive form of intellectual labor, and, therefore, 
though conscious of his own deficiency in some important elements of 
dramatic genius, Dryden principally devoted himself to the stage, 
making a legal engagement with the King's Company of Plaj^ers to 
supply them regularly with three dramas every year. It proves his 
wonderful readiness and fertility, as well as his extraordinary industry, 
that he was long able to fulfil so arduous a contract; and the mind is 
struck with astonishment on contemplating the rapid succession of 
dramatic works in which, by majestic versification, brilliant dialogue, 
striking situations, romantic and picturesque incidents, he contrived to 
compensate for his want of pathos and delicate analysis of human 
nature. His dramatic works constitute a very large portion of his en- 
tire compositions, and both in their merits and their faults they are at 
once strikingly characteristic of the peculiar genius of their author, and 
of the state of taste at the period when they were written. His dramatic 
career began about the year 1662, with the Duke of Guise, the Wild 
Gallant, the Rival Ladies, the Indian Entperor, and many other 
pieces, tragic, comic, and romantic. 

In 1663 the poet married Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the 
Earl of Berkshire, a union which is not supposed to have much contrib- 
uted to his happiness, the lady having been of a sour and querulous 
disposition ; and whether from his own unfavorable experience, or from 
natural disposition, Dryden generally exhibits himself in the light if 
not of a professed misogynist, yet of one who delighted to gird at mar- 
riage. In 1667 he produced his first great poem of a kind other than 
dramatic, the Annus Mirabilis, intended to commemorate the great 
events, or rather the great calamities, of the preceding year, the terrible 
Plague and Fire of London, and the War with the Dutch, then the 
rivals of England for supremacy by sea. This poem, written in the 
peculiar four-lined stanza which Davenant had employed in his poem 


of Gondibert, Dryden made the vehicle for much ill-deserved eulogium 
upon the King, and much equally ill-founded glorification of the con- 
duct of a naval war which was one of the most humiliating episodes of 
our history. The poem, however, gave abundant proof of the vigor, 
majesty, and force of Dryden's style, and proved him to be the rightful 
heir to the vacant throne of English poetry. At this time he wrote his 
Essay on Dramatic Poetry, in which he formally maintains the superi- 
ority of rhyme in theatrical dialogue, thus ran^ng himself openly on 
the side of the then dominant literary party, who endeavored to subject 
the English stage to the rules and principles of French tragedy. The 
theory he maintained in argument he at this time exemplified in prac- 
tice, by composing many pieces, as Tyra?inic Love, in rhyme. His 
good taste, however, afterwards enabled him to shake off the shackles 
of prejudice in this respect, and he returned to the far finer and more 
national system of blank verse which had been consecrated by the 
authority of the great dramatists of the Elizabethan era. At this period 
Dryden was appointed Poet Laureate, and Historiographer to the King, 
and for some time enjoyed the moderate salary of 200/. attached to the 

During the whole of his life Dryden was engaged in literary and 
political squabbles, sometimes with envious rivals, as with Settle, a bad 
poet, whom the public and patrons sometimes preferred to him, some- 
times with more powerful and dangerous adversaries, as with the eccen- 
tric and infamous Duke of Buckingham, who not only caricatured him, 
with the assistance of zealous poetasters, on the stage in the famous 
burlesque of the Rehearsal, but on one occasion revenged himself on 
the poet hy causing him to be waylaid by night and severely beaten by 
a number of bravoes or bullies, such as were often in the pay of the 
great men in those odious times. The incident, like the slitting of Sir 
John Coventry's nose, is disgracefully characteristic of a state of society, 
the tone of which, particularly in the higher and more fashionable 
classes, was, to use a popular but expressive term, eminently black- 

In 1681 appeared the first part of one of Dryden's noblest and most 
original works, the political satire oi Absalom and Achitofhel, in which, 
under a transparent disguise of Hebrew names and allusions, he attacks 
the factious policy of the Chancellor Shaftesbury, and his intrigues with 
the Duke of Monmouth on the subject of the succession of the Duke of 
York. The second part of this poem was published three years after, but 
was principally written by Tate, Dryden having only contributed two 
hundred lines, and probably also revised the rest. To the same period 
belongs also the Medal, directed against the same bold and unscrupu- 
lous politician. The purely literary Satire, Mac-Flecknoe, in which 
Dryden takes a terrible revenge upon Settle and Shadwell, and which 
is as original in design as it is forcible in execution, belongs to the year 
1682. Dryden's fertility was almost inexhaustible. In 1684 he produced 
the Religio Laid, an eloquent and vigorous defence of the Anglican 
Church against the Dissenters, and one of the finest controversial 

A.. D. 1631-1700.] JOHN DRYDEJfT. 215 

poems in any language. In 1686 Drjden abandoned the faith he had 
so powerfully defended, and embraced the Catholic doctrines, in which 
act he is unfortunately suspected of having been swayed in some degree 
by interested motives, as the change most suspiciously coincides witb 
the efforts made hy the King, James II., to convert every one, by threat* 
or corruption, to the faith of which he was so bigoted a professor 
Dryden, nevertheless, may have been sincere in thus changing his reli- 
gion ; at all events he produced in defence of it a polemical poem, which, 
in spite of the fundamental absurdity of its plan, exhibits in a high de- 
gree his unequalled power of combining vigorous reasoning with sono- 
rous verse and rich illustration. The poem was entitled the Hitid and 
Panther, and will form the subject of some critical remarks in our gen- 
eral review of his works. It was published in 1687. ^^ the following 
3^ear the Revolution deprived the poet of that court favor which no 
Catholic or partisan of absolute monarchy could hope to retain ; but 
this event was incapable of arresting the activity or chilling the fire of 
the great poet. He continued to write dramatic pieces, and gave to the 
world his excellent translation of Juvenal and Persius, with the former 
of which satirists his genius had many points of similarity. His trans- 
lation of Virgil appeared in 1697, and seems to have been one of his 
most profitable literary ventures; it has been said that he gained 1200/. 
by this publication. At the same time he composed his Ode on St. 
Cecilia's Day, one of the noblest lyrics in the English language. Old 
age and broken health seem not to have been able to interrupt his 
career; for in 1700 he produced his Fables, a collection of tales either 
borrowed and modernized from Chaucer or versified from Boccaccio, in 
which his invention, fire, and harmony appear in their very highest 
power. In this year he died of a mortification in the leg, combined 
with dropsy; and was buried in Westminster Abbey, followed to the 
grave by the admiration of his countrymen, who saw that in him they 
had lost incomparably the greatest poet of the age. 

§ 5. In considering the voluminous writings of Dryden, it will be 
advisable to review, first his dramas, then his various works in other 
departments of poetry, and lastly his prose. 

In the drama Dryden is the chief representative of that great revo- 
lution in taste which followed the Restoration, when the sweet and 
powerful style of the romantic drama of the Elizabethan type was sup- 
planted by an imitation of French models. The comic pieces of Dry- 
den are marked by all and more than all the pr^ound immorality 
which corrupted fashionable society at that odious period ; and at the 
same time his deficiency in humor renders his pieces dull and stupid in 
spite of their extravagance, giving the reader no pleasantry to compen- 
sate for their grossness. The most flagrant instance of his ill-success 
in this branch was his comedy of Limberham, while it is but fair to 
remark that in the Spanish Friar there are scenes and characters of 
considerable merit. As the most popular and fashionable species of 
entertainment, the theatre was, of course, exposed to the full influence 
of the prevailing immorality, which was the reaction after the exagger^ 


ated severity of the Puritan times ; and being a vice to which the 
stage is always of itself especially prone, this immorality was further 
intensified by the shameless profligacy of the court. Dryden, in yield- 
ing to this detestable tendency, merely followed the prevailing fashion ; 
and though not perhaps personally a man of high spirit, showed, by 
the submission with which he received Jeremy Collier's well-merited 
rebuke on the indecency and irreligion of his plays, that he had the 
grace to be ashamed of faults which he had not the virtue to avoid. 

The tragedy of this period forms a most amusing contrast to the 
comedy; while in the latter the vilest indecency was paraded with 
unblushing impudence, tragedy affected a tone of romantic enthusiasm 
and superhuman elevation far removed from nature and common sense. 
The heroes were incessantly represented as supernaturally brave, as 
involving themselves in the most abstruse casuistry of amorous meta- 
physics, originally traceable to the wire-drawn subtleties of the ro- 
mances of the sixteenth century, and which in their turn had their 
origin in the Arrets d'Amour of the Provencal troubadours. Self-sac- 
rifice is pushed to the verge of caricature, and all the ordinary feelings 
of nature are violated to attain a sort of impossible ideal of heroic and 
amorous perfection. In ihe Rival Ladies, the l7idian Emferor, Tyraji- 
nic Love, Aureng-zebe, All for Love, Cleomenes, Doji Sebastian, and 
similar pieces, we see Dryden's dramatic genius, as we see the dramatic 
spirit of the age, in its power and in its weakness. Dryden had very 
little mastery over the tender emotions, and very little skill in the de- 
lineation of character : nor was he ignorant of his deficiencies in this 
respect : he tried, and with no mean success, to compensate for them 
by striking, unexpected, and picturesque incidents, by powerful declam- 
atory dialogue, and by a majesty, ease, and splendor of versification. 
The kind of scenes in which Dryden exhibits his nearest approach to 
dramatic excellence are dialogues in which the speakers begin by vio- 
lent recriminations and finish with reconciliation ; scenes, in short, 
similar to the quarrel between Brutus and Cassius in the yiclius Ccesar 
of Shakspeare. Conscious of his power, Dryden has frequently re- 
peated situations of this kind; examples of which are the dispute 
between Antony and Ve.ntidius \x\ All for Love, a piece founded upon 
Antony and Cleopatra, and the still finer specimen of the same kind 
of writing between Dorax and the King in Don Sebastian. In such 
scenes Dryden reaches if not the level of Shakspeare, at least that of 
Massinger or Flet^er. In his eagerness to supply constant food to the 
craving for novelty, Dryden sometimes forgot that veneration for the 
genius of his predecessors which on other occasions he has eloqviently 
expressed ; thus, in conjunction with Davenant, he condescended to 
make alterations and additions to Shakspeare's Tempest, transforming 
that pure and ideal creation into a brilliant and meretricious opera, full 
of scenic effects, and containing, besides Miranda, the addition of a 
young man who has never seen a woman, giving full opportunity for 
those prurient allusions which were then so vehemently applauded. 
Similarly he did not scruple to transform the Paradise Lost into an 

A. D. 1631-1700.] JOHN DRYDEN. 217 

operatic entertainment, in which the sublimity and purity of ISIilton 
are strangely disfigured. This piece was styled the State of Iniiocence. 
In those days Prologues and Epilogues formed an essential and favorite 
accompaniment to theatrical pieces ; and they were written with great 
skill, containing either allusions to the topics of the moment or judg- \] 
ments on the great authors of the earlier stage; and, when delivered <o 
by a fascinating actress or a graceful tragedian, were received with ^ 
enthusiastic applause. Dryden was equally adroit and fertile in this 
class of composition, and many of his prologues and epilogues are 
masterpieces both in the comic and elevated style. In many of the 
comic productions of this nature he unfortunately panders to the pre- 
vailing taste for loose allusion and equivoque, particularly in those 
■which were delivered by Nell Gwynne and other frail but fascinating 
beavities. -"^^^ 

§ 6. Even in the earliest productions of this poet, as in his Heroic 
Stanzas in praise of Cromwell, it is easy to perceive that force, vigor, 
and majestic melody of style which distinguish him above all the 
writers of his age, above all the writers of any age, perhaps, in the 
English literature. In some of his first attempts he adopted the form 
of the stanza, generally, as in his Annus Mirabilis^ the four-lined 
alternately-rhymed stanza of the Gondibert of Davenant. But he 
ultimately preferred the rhymed heroic couplet of ten-syllabled lines, a 
measure which he carried to the highest perfection of which it is capa- 
ble; and even in his stanzas we may clearly see that they possess the 
essential elements of this last form of versification, as each can be 
resolved into tvvo sonorous couplets. This kind of metre Dryden 
wielded with singular force and mastery : whether he reasons, or de- \ 
scribes, or declaims, or narrates, he moves with perfect freedom; and 
the regularity of the structure of his verse, and the recurrence of the 
rhyme, so far from appearing to shackle his movements, seem owXy to , \* 
give majesty and impetus to his march. lie frequently intersperses a >j 
third line, rhyming with the two preceding, and forming a triplet, and ^ 
this third line, which is often an Alexandrine of twelve instead of ten k 
syllables, winds up the period with a roll of noble harmony, — ' 

"A long-resounding march and melody divine." 

Perhaps the greatest among his longer poems are those in which the 
subject is half-polemic and half-satirical. The Absalom and Achitofhel 
contains a multitude of admirably drawn portraits, among which those 
of Shaftesbury, the Duke of Buckingham, Settle, Shadwell, and the 
infamous Titus Gates, remain in the memory of every reader^ Nothing- 
can better prove the extreme difterence between the descriptive and 
dramatic manner of drawing characters than a comparison between the 
astonishing vivacity of these delineations and Dryden's weakness when 
endeavoring to represent human beings on the stage. In order to fully 
appreciate all the merits of this poem it is necessary to read it in con- 
nection with the history of the time, and to follow Dryden into his 
innumerable allusions to the questions and persons of the day; but even 


the general student, who will examine it from a purely literary point of 
view, will find in it the noblest examples of moral painting, always 
vigorous though not always just, and will perceive all the highest quali- 
ties of the English language as a vehicle for reasoning and description. 
The Medal, a satire directed, like the former, chiefly against the factious 
turbulence of Shaftesbury, contains passages not inferior. 

Drj'den has given us, in Mac-Flecknoe, the first example of purely 
literary and personal satire. Its object was his rival Shadwell ; and the 
poet supposes his victim to be the successor in the supremacy of stupid- 
ity to a wretched Irish scribbler named Flecknoe, giving him to indicate 
this succession the title of Mac, the Celtic or Irish form of the patro- 
nymic. The satire is undoubtedly coarse and violent, but it contains 
numerous interesting details concerning the literature, and particularly 
the drama, of the daj^ ; and many passages are powerfully and bitterly 
original. - 

§ 7. The two great controversial poems Rcligio Laid and the Hind 
and Panther exhibit in its highest perfection Dryden's consummate 
mastery in perhaps the most difficult species of writing, nameljs poetry 
in which close reasoning on an abstract subject like theology should be 
combined with rich illustration and picturesque imagery. With the 
nature of his arguments it is not necessary to meddle ; they are, both 
on the Protestant and Catholic side, the same that naturally present 
themselves to the disputant; and are based upon Scripture or tradition, 
upon induction or experience, as may best serve the writer's purpose. 
But the powerful and unfettered march of the reasoning, the abundance 
of picturesque illustration, and the noble outbursts of enthusiasm make 
us alternately converts to the one faith and to the other, and prove 
Dryden to be one of the greatest of ratiocinative poets. In the Hind 
and Panther we very soon get over the preliminary absurdity of the 
fable, in which the two animals that give the title to the poem are 
represented as engaging in an elaborate argument in favor of the two 
churches whose emblems they are — the " milk-white Hind " the Catho- 
lic, and the Panther the Church of England — as well as the repre- 
sentation of the other sects under the guise of wolves, bears, and a whole 
menagerie of animals. The opening of the Religio Laid is incompa- 
rably fine, as well as the allusions inore than once made in both poems 
to the writer's own religious convictions. What is very curious is that 
Dryden, though unquestionably a man of strong pious aspirations, has 
always given a verj'^ unfavorable character of the clergy; and does not 
confine his satirical invectives to the priests of any one religion, but 
classes pa^n augurs, Turkish imams, Egyptian hierophants in one 
common r^robation with Christian ministers of all sects, orthodox as 
well as sectarian. 

§ 8. The lyric productions of this poet are not numerous in propor- 
tion to their excellence. Interspersed among the scenes of his roman- 
tic dramas are many beautiful and harmonious songs ; but his most 
celebrated production of this kind is his Ode on St. Cecilia's Day^ 
written for music, and celebrating the powers and the triumph of the 

A. D. 1631-1700.] ' JOHN DRYDE^. 219 

art. The narrative portion of this noble Ijric is a description of the 
various passions excited by the Greek harper Timotheus in the mind 
of Alexander the Great, as he is feasting with his victorious chieftains 
in the royal halls of Persepolis. Joy, pleasure, pride, pity, terror, and 
revenge successively arise under the " mighty master's " touch, and the 
various strophes at once describe and exemplify the sentiment they 
paint. The poem concludes with an allusion to the fabled invention of 
sacred music by St. Cecilia. Dryden is said to have written this ad- 
mirabl ^ ooem at a single jet, and in the space of a few hours. It will 
a ways be regarded as one of the most energetic lyrics in the English 
language. In spite of some inequalities of expression, it rushes on 
with a flow and a swing like.that of Pindar himself, and in many places 
the sound is an echo to the sense. It is the Sinfonia Eroica of Beet- 
hoven in words. 

The translation into English verse of the Satires of Juvenal and 
Persius exhibits Dryden's power of transferring to his own language, 
not perhaps the exact sense of those difficult authors, but their general 
spirit. There was a considerable similarity between the tone of Dry- 
den's mind and that of Juvenal ; the same force, the same somewhat 
declamatory character, and the same unscrupulous boldness in painting 
what was odious and detestable : but the plain-spoken frankness of the 
Roman, in delineating the incredible corruption of the times of Domi- 
tian, degenerates into licentiousness in Dryden, who seems sometimes 
to gloat over descriptions which Juvenal introduced purely with an in- 
tention of exhibiting in all its horror the vice which he lashes. Our 
poet's most extensive work of poetical translation was his English 
version of Virgil ; and though he has produced what will always be 
regarded as one of the great standard monuments of our literature, it 
may be regretted that the author he selected for translation was not 
one more accordant with his peculiar genius. Virgil's predominant 
quality is majesty indeed, but majesty always tempered with con- 
summate grace ; and Dryden, however characterized by majesty, was 
certainly deficient in grace and elegance. He seems himself to have 
become conscious of his error, and to have lamented that he had not 
rather chosen Homer. Two of our most illustrious poets, Dryden and 
Pope, have respectively translated Virgil and Homer: their glory would 
have been greater had they exchanged subjects. The robust and some- 
what masculine genius of Dryden could not perfectly assume the vir- 
ginal and ideal refinement of the Diana-like Muse of Mantua. 

§ 9. The highest qualities of Dryden's literary genius never blazed 
out with greater splendor than whfin about to set forever in the grave. 
His Fables, as he called them, though they are in no sense fables, but 
rather tales in verse, exhibit all his noblest qualities, and are in general 
free from his defect of occasional coarseness. The subjects of these 
narratives are either modernfeed and paraphrased from Chaucer, or 
taken from the same sources whence Chaucer drew his materials, the 
Decameron of Boccaccio, and other French and Italian novelle. Among 
the revivals of Chaucer may be specified Palamon and Arcite (the 


Knight's Tale), January and May (the Doctor's Tale), the Cock an^ 
the Fox (the Nun's Priest's Tale), and a paraphrase of Chaucer's char- 
acter of the Good Parson ; among the latter category the stories of 
Cymon and Iphigenia and Theodore and Honoria. These works are 
for the most part of considerable length ; and it is curious to see how 
Dryden, with all his deep and sincere veneration for Chaucer, has 
failed to reproduce the more delicate and subtler qualities of his model. 
The splendor, the force, the picturesqueness of the original are indeed 
there ; but the tender naivete, the almost infantine pathos of the origi- 
nal, have quite evaporated, like some subtle perfume, in the process of 
transfusion. How far this is to be attributed to Dryden's own charac- 
ter — always deficient in tenderness — how far to the general tone of 
the age in which he lived, an age the very antipodes of sentiment, it is 
difficult to decide : in some degree, perhaps, that evanescent and subtle 
fragrance may be intimately connected with Chaucer's archaic lan- 
guage : but all who have attempted to modernize the father of our 
poetry have in a greater or less degree encountered the same insuper- 
able difficulty. The diminution of tenderness is peculiarly perceptible 
in such passages as the dying speech of Arcite, and in many traits of 
the portrait of the Parson, to whom Dryden has communicated quite 
a modern air. These narratives, therefore, in order to produce their 
full effect, should be read as independent works of Dryden, without 
any reference either to Chaucer or Boccaccio ; in which case they cannot 
fail to excite the liveliest admiration. The flowing ease with which the 
story is told, the frequent occurrence of beautiful lines and happy 
expressions, will ever make them the most favorable specimens perhaps 
of Dryden's peculiar merits. 

§ 10. Besides poetry, Dryden produced a very large quantity of 
prose, much of it of great value, not only for the style, but in many 
instances also for the matter. The form of his prose works was gen- 
erally that of Essays or Prefaces prefixed to his various poems, and 
discussing some subject in connection with the particular matter in 
hand. Thus in his Essay on Dramatic Poetry he investigates the then 
hotly-argued question as to the employment of Rhyme in Tragedy ; 
his Juvenal was accompanied with a most amusing treatise on Satire ; 
indeed few of his poetical works appeared without some prose disqui- 
sition. In this way he has travelled over a vast field of critical inquiry-, 
and given us invaluable appreciations of poets of his own and other 
countries. Dryden must be regarded as the first enlightened critic who 
appeared in the English language. His judgments concerning Chaucer, 
Shakspeare, and his mighty contemporaries, Milton and a multitude 
of other authors, do equal honor to the catholicity of his taste and the 
courage with which he expressed his opinions. His decisions may, 
indeed, sometimes be erroneous, but they are always based upon reflec- 
tion and a ground, specious at least, if not solid. These works, besides, 
are admirable specimens of lively, vigorous, idiomatic English, of 
which no man, when he chose to avoid the occasional pedantic employ- 
ment of fashionable French words, was a great master. The Dedica- 

A. D. 1628-16S8.] JOHN BUNTAK S21 

iiofzs of many of his works to great and influential patrons, howevef 
little honor they may do to Dryden's independence of character, are'' 
singularly ingenious and well-turned; and in judging the tone of ser- 
vility which such things display, we must not forget that it was the 
fashion of the time, and that a professional author, who lived by his 
pen, could hardly afford to sacrifice his interest to an assertion of dig- 
nity which no one at that time could understand. 

§ 11. Literature presents no more original personality than that of 
John Bunyan (1628-168S), the greatest master of allegory that ever has 
existed. He was born at the village of Elstow, near Bedford, in 1628. 
His father was a tinker, and the son in his youth followed the same 
humble calling. Though born in the very lowest rank of social life, 
and consequently enjoying very limited advantages of education, which 
appear in Bunj^an's case to have extended no farther than simple read- 
ing and writing, he had before him the example of piety and morality, 
and at about the age of eighteen entered the military service in the 
Parliamentary army. In the strange and interesting religious autobi- 
ographj' which he wrdte under the title of Grace Aboiuiding in the Chief 
of Si?uters, Bunyan has given a curious picture of his internal strug- 
gles, his despair, his conversion, and his acceptance bj'God; and the 
whole range of mystical literature does not offer a more touching con- 
fession. Like all enthusiasts, he much exaggerales the sinfulness of 
his original state; and the peace and confidence in Divine m.ercy, 
which he attained at the price of agonies such as almost overthrew his 
reason, and which are of themselves an evidence of the natural strength 
of his feelings, form a contrast with the gloom and despair from which 
he imagined himself to have been rescued hy a miraculous interposi- 
tion of heavenly grace. But it is certain that the irregularities he so 
deeply deplores were venial, if not altogether trifling, and that his con- 
duct had always in the^main been virtuous and moral. He married 
very young, and his worst vices appear to have been a habit of swear- 
ing, and a taste for ale-drinking and the pastime — always so popular 
among the English peasantry — of bell-ringing and playing at hockey 
and tip-cat. After experiencing the fearful internal struggles usual 
when strongly imaginative and impressionable minds are first brought 
under religious conviction, he joined, in 1655, the sect of the Baptists, 
one of the most enthusiastic among the innumerable Calvinistic sects 
with which England was then seething; and he gradually attracted 
notoriety by the fervor of his piety and the rude eloquence of his dis- 
courses. Deeply sincere himself, and of a benevolent and lo^'ing dis- 
position, he was eager to communicate to others those '' glad tiding:? 
of great joy " which had been, as he imagined, divinely brought home 
to his own soul ; and his powerful genius, combined with his religious 
ardor, must have given him vast power over the humble enthusiasts 
who composed his congregations. 

At the time of the Restoration the government began to persecute 
with extreme severity the dissenting sects, which were in most cases 
identified with the political doctrines of the recently overthrown Com* 


monwealth ; and Bunyan, as a leading man among the Baptists, was 
'necessarily exposed to these trials. After undergoing some minor per- 
secutions, he was convicted of frequenting and upholding conventicles, 
and imprisoned for upwards of twelve years in the jail of Bedford. 
During this long confinement, the rigor of which, however, was grad- 
ually much relaxed towards its close, he supported himself by making 
tagged laces, and acquired the veneration of his .companions by the 
benevolence with which he consoled them, and by the fervor of his 
religious exhortations. In prison, too, he enjoyed the society of his 
family, and particularly of his little blind daughter, of whom he v/as 
passionately fond. It was during this confinement that he composed 
his immortal allegory the PilgrMs Progress. In the eleventh year of 
his imprisonment, when he was frequently allowed to leave the jail, he 
was chosen pi-eacher of the Baptist congregation. The persecution 
against the sects having been gradually relaxed, in consequence of the 
Jesuitical policy of James II., who under the mask of general tolera- 
tion wished insensibly to relieve the proscription that weighed upon 
the Catholics, Bunyan was at last liberated altogether; and in 1672 he 
had become a venerated and influential leader in his sect, preaching 
frequently both in Bedford and London. His sufi:erings, his virtues, 
his genius as a writer, and his eloquence as a pastor contributed to his 
fame. He died in 16S8, in London, it is said in consequence of a cold 
caught in a journey undertaken by him in inclement weather with the 
object of reconciling a father and a son. His character appears to have 
been essentially mild, affectionate, and animated by a truly evangelical 
love to all men. He was kind and indulgent, and free from that nar- 
row-minded sectarian jealousy which loves to confine the privileges of 
salvation to its own little coterie ; and, though a leading member of .'; 
most fanatical and enthusiastic persuasion, he exhibited a rare example 
of Christian charity and a truly catholic love for all mankind. In 
spite, however, of the real mildness and gentleness of his character, 
his external manners and appearance, as he has himself recorded, had 
something austere and forbidding; but this was only apparent, and, 
apart from a few of those childish and almost technical scruples in 
matters really indifferent, which may be called the badges of sectarian 
societies, Bunyan showed none of the sour and peevish narrowness 
which is the vice of such bodies. This is as honorable to him as it is 
extraordinary in itself, when we reflect upon his limited education and 
upon the almost irresistible tendency of the circumstances which sur- 
rounded him. 

§ 12. The works of Bunyan are numerous; but there are only three 
among them upon which it will be necessary for us to dwell. These 
are the religious autobiography entitled Grace Aboitnditig in the Chief 
of Sinners^ to which I have slightly alluded above, and the two religious 
allegories, the Pilgrivi's Progress and W\q. Holy War. In the first of 
these works Bunyan has given the minutest and most candid account 
of his own spiritual struggles and conversion. It is a book of the same 
order with the mystic writings of St. Theresa, with the Confessions of 

A. D. 1628-16S8.] JOHN BUN Y AN. 223 

St. Augustine, and not inferior in interest and originality to the Con- 
fessions of Rousseau. The author lays bare before us all the recesses 
of his heart, and admits us to the tremendoits spectacle of a human 
soul working out by unspeakable agonies its liberation from the bonds 
of sin and worldliness. It is evident that Bunyan has enormously 
exaggerated the criminality of his unregenerate state, and that the 
enthusiasm of his character has, though in perfect simplicity and good 
faith, intensified both the lights and shades of the picture. The delinea- 
tion, however, can never fail to possess interest either for the religious 
student or for the philosopher who love^ to investigate the mysterious 
problems of our moral and spiritual nature. The gloom and the sun- 
shine, the despair and the triumph, are alike reflected in the simple and 
fervent language of Bunyan ; and the book abounds with those little 
inimitable touches of natural feeling and description which have placed 
its author among the most picturesque of writers. 

§ 13. But it is in his allegories that Bunyan stands unrivalled, and 
particularly in the Pilgrini's Progress. This book, which is in two 
parts, the first beyond comparison the finest, narrates the struggles, the 
experiences, and the trials of a Christian in his passage from a life of 
sin to everlasting felicity. " Mr. Christian," dwelling in a city, is 
incited by the consciousness of his lost state, typified by a heavy 
burden, to take a journey to the New Jerusalem — the city of eternal 
life. All the adventures of his- travel, the scenes which he visits, the 
dangers which he encounters, the enemies he combats, the friends and 
fellow-pilgrims he meets upon his road, typify, with a strange mixture 
of literal simplicity and powerful imagination, the vicissitudes of reli- 
gious experience. Shakspeare is not more essentially the prince of 
dramatists that Bunyan is the prince of allegorists. So intense was his 
intellectual vision that abstract qualities are instantly clothed by him 
with personality, and we sjanpathize with his shadowy personages as 
with real human beings. In the fair or terrible scenes which he sets 
before us we feel our belief captivated as with real incidents and places. 
Thousands of readers, from the child to the accomplished man, have 
trembled and rejoiced, have smiled and wept, in sympathy with the 
joys and sufferings of Bunyan's personages. ^ Dante possesses a some- 
what similar power o{ realizing the. conceptions of the imagination; 
but Dante took for his subjects real human beings, whom he placed in 
extraordinary positions, where they still retain their personality ; while 
Bunyan clothes with flesh and blood the abstract and the imaginary. 
Spenser was a great master of allegory; but it is not with his" persons, 
so much as with the brilliant and picturesque accessories that surround 
them, that we interest ourselves. The Red-Cross Knight, Una, Mal- 
becco, and Britomart do not excite any very lively anxiety about their 
fate as persons ; we follow their adventures with pleasure and curiositv, 
as we follow the unfolding incidents of a dramatic spectacle ; but we 
no more identify ourselves with their fate than we do with that of so 
many actors after the fall of the curtain. But Bunyan's dramatis per- 
sona we follow v»ath a breathless sympathy, something like that with 


which we read Rohinso7i Crusoe for the first time. This result is indeed 
in some degree to be ascribed to the simple, direct, unadorned stjle in 
which Bunjan wrote, and to the reality with which he himself con- 
ceived his persons and adventures. 

The popularity of the Pilgrim's Progress was immediate and im- 
mense : it has continued to the present day; and the tale is one of the 
most fascinating to children and peasants. Indeed, there is hardly a 
cottage in England or Scotland where Bunyan's fiction does not find a 
place on the scanty book-shelf, between the Bible and the Almanac. 
Encom-aged by the success of the first part, Bunyan was induced to 
compose a continuation, in which the wife and children of Christian go 
over nearly the same ground and meet with nearly similar adventures. 
The charm, however, of the second part is far inferior to that of the 
first; the invention displayed, though remarkable, is devoid of the 
freshness which marks the persons and incidents of Christian's journey. 
A great many scenes and characters in Bunyan's books, though intended 
to embody allegorical meanings, are evidently drawn from real life. 
The description of Vanity Fair, many of the landscapes so beautifully 
and vividly painted, and a large number of the personages and dia- 
logues, bear all the marks of being transcripts from Bunyan's actual 
experience. The agitated times in which the book was written were 
abundant in strongly-marked characters, both good and bad; and we 
may accept, for exam.ple, the life-like scene of the accusation before the 
court of justice as a faithful picture of the incredible brutality and cor- 
ruption of the tribunals of those evil days. Bunyan, like all great 
creators, was gifted with a lively sense of the humorous, and in the 
characters and adventures we frequently see a comic element of no 
inconsiderable merit. The sublime and the grotesque, the tender, the 
terrible, and the humorous, were alike tasted by this truly ;pofular 
genius. In the largeness of his nature, as well as in the forcible and 
idiomatic picturesqueness of his language, he perfectly sympathizes 
with the people; and he has expressed their sentiments in their 
natural tongue. His knowledge of books was very small; but the 
English version of the Bible, in which our language exhibits its highest 
force and perfection, had been studied by him so intensely that he was 
completely saturated with its spirit. He wrote unconsciously in its 
style, and the innumerable scriptural quotations with which his works 
are incrusted like a mosaic, harmonize, without any incongruitv, with 
the general tissue of his language. Except the Bible, from which he 
borrowed, consciously or unconsciously, the main groundwork of his 
diction, he probably was little acquainted with books. Fox's Alartyrs 
and a few popular legends of knights errant, such as have ever been a 
favorite reading among the English peasantry, probably furnished all 
such materials as he did not find in the Script;u-es. The Bible, indeed, 
he is reported to have known almost hy heart. 

With such intellectual training, applied to a mind naturally sensitive 
and enthusiastic, the style of a writer might be rude, harsh, nay, even ungrammatical, but it v\^as sure to be perfectly free from 

A. D. 1628-16S8.] JOHN BUNYAN. 225 

vulgarity and meretricious ornament; and Bunjan is the most perfect 
representative of the plain, vigorous, idiomatic, and sometimes pictu- 
resque and poetical language of the common people. It resembles in 
its masculine breadth and solidity that ancient style of architecture 
which is improperly called Saxon ; its robust pillars and stout arches, 
its combination of rugged stone and imperishable heart of oak, giving 
earnest of illimitable duration. It is surprising how universally 
Bunyan's diction is drawn from the primitive Teutonic element in our 
language : for pages together we sometimes meet with nothing but 
monosyllable and dissyllable words; with the exception of a few theo- 
logical terms, his structure is built up of the solid granite that lies at 
the bottom of our speech. Of course it was impossible that the alle- 
gory could always be maintained; in a work of such length the spiritual 
type could not always be kept distinct from the bodily antitype ; but the 
reader seldom experiences any difficulty from this cause, being carried 
forward by the vivacity of the narrative. The long spiritual discus- 
sions, expositions of theological questions, and exhortations addressed 
by one interlocutor to the others, not only afford curious specimens of 
the religious composition of those days, but increase the verisimilitude 
of the persons. These passages, too, show Bunyan's profound ac- 
quaintance with the language and the spirit of the Scriptures, and 
place in the strongest light his benevolent and evangelical Christianity. 
In hia descriptions he is equally powerful whether the object he paints 
be terrible or attractive : the Valley of the Shadow of Death is placed 
before us with the same astonishing reality as the Delectable Moun- 
tains — a reality strongly recalling the Hell and Paradise of Dante. 
No religious writer has analj^zed more minutely and represented more 
faithfully every phase of feeling through which the soul passes in its 
struggles with sin : the clearness of these pictures is rather increased 
than diminished by the allegorical dress in which they are clothed. In 
them Bunyan did but draw upon his own memory, and narrate his own 
experiences. He exhibits, too, that inseparable characteristic of the 
higher order of creative power, a constant sympathy with the simpler 
objects of external nature, and a preference of the great fundamental 
elements of human character. 

§ 14. The Holy War is an allegory typifying, in the siege and cap- 
ture of the City of Mansoul, the struggle between sin and religion in 
the human spirit. Diabolus on the one hand and Immanuel on the 
other are the leaders of the opposing armies. In this narrative we see 
frequent traces of Bunyan's personal experience in military operations, 
such as he had witnessed while serving in the ranks of Cromwell's 
stout and God-fearing army. The narrative, viewed as a tale, is far 
less interesting than the Pilgrhri's Progress, our sympathies not being 
excited by the dangers and escapes of a single hero; and in many 
points the allegory is too refined and complicated to be always readily 
followed. The style, though similar in its masculine vigor to that of 
the former allegory, is less fresh and animated. 

§ 15. One of the most prominent figures in the Long Parliament and 


the Restoration was Edward Hyde, afterwards Chancellor, better 
known by his title of Earl of Clarendon (1608-1674). Not only was 
he an actor in the political drama of that momentous epoch, but he 
holds an honorable place among English historians by means of h-is 
history of the events in which he had taken part. Descended from a 
geJitle stock, and educated at Oxford, he soon abandoned the profession 
of a barrister for the more exciting struggles of political life. He sat 
in the Short Parliament of 1640, when he was a member of the moder- 
ate party in opposition to the court, and aftei'wards, in the same year, 
was a conspicuous orator in the Long Parliament, at first supporting 
opposition principles, but after a violent quarrel with Hampden and 
the more advanced adherents of the national cause, he gradually passed 
over to the Royalist side. Finding himself at last in open rupture with 
the constitutional party, and even in imminent danger of arrest, he fled 
from London and joined the king at York. From this time Clarendon 
must be regarded among the most faithful, though certainly among the 
most moderate adherents of the Royalist cause. In 1644 ^e was ap- 
pointed member of the Council named to advise and take charge of the 
prince, whom he accompanied to Jersey, and whose exile and vicissi- 
tudes he shared from the execution of Charles I. to the Restoration in 
1660. During the Republic and Protectorate Hyde remained abroad, 
generally in close attendance upon the exiled prince and his little dis- 
reputable court, and generally giving such advice, as, if followed by his 
master and his companions, would have spared them much disgrace 
and many embarrassments. He was also rewarded with the title — 
then but an empty name — of Chancellor, and he was employed in 
several diplomatic services, one to the Court of Madrid, with the object 
of inducing the European cabinets to interfere actively on behalf of the 
exiled house. In this mission he was unsuccessful, so great was the 
terror inspired by the vigor of the great soldier and statesman who then 
swayed the destinies of England, and who first placed his country 
among the first-class powers of Europe. During this time Hyde had 
frequently, like many of his companions, and like the king himself 
while wandering in France and Holland, to support extreme poverty 
and privation. With the death of Cromwell crumbled to pieces the 
structure maintained as well as raised by his genius and patriotism. 
The Restoration took place ; and in the frenzy of triumph which 
greeted the re-established monarchy, it was natural that Hyde should 
reap the reward of his services. He was installed in the high office of 
Chancellor, made first a Baron, and afterwards, in 1661, Earl of Clar- 
endon, and for some time was among the most powerful advisers of the 
court. His popularitj^ however, as well as his favor with the king, 
soon began to decline; for both his virtues and his faults were such as 
to render him disliked. The gravity and austeritj^ of his morals formed 
a strong contrast to the extreme profligacy of the court ; his advice', 
generally in favor of prudence and economy, could not but be distaste- 
ful to the king; and his lectures had the additional disadvantage of 
being tedious ; while, like many other statesmen who have returned fo 

A. D. 160S-1674.] CLARENDON. 227 

power after a long exile, he was not able to accommodate himself to 
the altered state of opinion. At the same time the people looked with 
envj and distrust upon the great wealth which he was accumulating, 
not always bj the most scrupulous means, and upon the spirit of nepo- 
tism which was making the House of Hjde one of the richest and most 
splendid in the country. The magnificence, too, of his palaces and 
gardens gave additional umbrage to public dislike, which was carried 
to the highest pitch when a secret marriage was divulged between his 
daughter Anne and the Duke of York, brother and heir-appai-ent of 
the king. This alliance between a family that every one remembered 
to have risen from the rank of country gentleman and the Royal 
House was looked upon with strong displeasure. Clarendon, hy it, 
became the progenitor of two queens of England, Mary and Anne. 
The minister's unpopularity was completed by the share he had in 
advising Charles to sell Dunkirk to Louis XIV., a measure which ex- 
cited the intensest feeling of national humiliation ; and Clarendon was 
accused by popular rumor of receiving a share of the proceeds of this 
disgraceful compact: his splendid palace in London received the bitter 
nickname of "Dunkirk House." Charles was not a man to sacrifice 
an atom of popularity for the purpose of screening a minister, even 
had he been personally attached to Clarendon. The Chancellor war. 
impeached for High Treason, went into exile, and passed the remainder 
of his life in France, where he died, at Rouen, in 1674. 

§ 16. Clarendon was the author of many state papers and other ofll- 
cial docimients, which exhibit a grave and dignified eloquence ; but his 
great work is the History of the Great Rebellion., as he naturally, in 
his quality of a Royalist, designated the Civil War. This review of 
events embraces a detailed account, rather in the form of Memoirs than 
regular history, of the proceedings from 1625 to 1633, together with a 
narrative of the incidents which led to the Restoration. As the mate- 
rials were derived from the author's personal experience, the work is 
of high value, and places Clarendon among the leading historical 
writers of his age; while the dignity and liveliness of the style, in 
spite of occasional obscuritj^, will ever rank him among the great 
classical English prose-writers. Impartial he cannot be expected to 
be; but his partiality is less frequent and less flagrant than could fairly 
have been anticipated. The moderation of his character has occasion- 
ally led him to hesitate between two conclusions, and even when con- 
victed of partiality he may be said to be rather negatively than posi- 
tivelj' unfair. If we take into consideration the number and complexity 
of the events he had to treat, we shall find fewer serious inaccuracies 
than could have been looked for in his account of facts. Above all he 
is excellent in the delineation of character. These are the parts of his 
work most carefully elaborated, and in them we often find penetration 
in judging and skill in portraying varieties of human nature. 

§ 17. There is perhaps no character, whether personal or literary, 
more perfectly enviable than that of Izaak Walton (1593-1683). He 
was born at Stafford in 1593, and passed his early manhood in London, 


where he carried on the humble business of a " sempster " or linen- 
draper. At about fifty he was able to retire from trade, probably with 
such a competency as was sufficient for his modest desires, and lived 
till the great age of ninety in ease and tranquillity, enjoying the friend- 
ship of many of the most learned and accomplished men of his time, 
and amusing himself with literature and his beloved pastime of the 
angle. His marriage with a sister of the truly apostolic Bishop Ken 
probably brought him into contact with such men as Donne, Hales, 
Wotton, Chillingworth, Sanderson, and Ussher; and the exquisite 
modesty and simplicity of his character soon ripened such acquaint- 
ance into solid friendships. He produced at different times the Lives 
of five persons, all distinguished for their virtues and accomplishments, 
namely, Donne, Wotton, Hooker, Herbert, and Bishop Sanderson, with 
the first, second, and last of whom he had been intimate. These 
biographies are unlike anything else in literature ; they are written 
with such a tender and simple grace, with such an unaffected fervor of 
personal attachment and simple piety, that they will ever be regarded 
as masterpieces. But Walton's great work is the Co^nplete Angler^ a 
treatise on his favorite art of fishing, in which the precepts for the 
sport are combined with such inimitable descriptions of English river 
scenery, such charming dialogues, and so prevailing a tone of gratitude 
for God's goodness, that the book is absolutel}'^ tcniaiie in literature. 
The passion of the English for all kinds of field-sports and out-of-door 
amusements is closely connected with sensibility to the loveliness of 
rural nature ; and the calm home-scenes of our national scenery are 
reflected with a loving truth in Walton's descriptions of those quiet 
rivers and daisied meadows which the good old man haunted rod in 
hand. The treatise, with a quaint gravity that adds to its charm, is 
thrown into a series of dialogues, first between Piscator, Venator, and 
Auceps, each of whom in turn proclaims the superiority of his favorite 
sport, and afterwards between Piscator and Venator, the latter of whom 
is converted by the angler, and becomes his disciple. Mixed up with 
technical precepts, now become a little obsolete, are an infinite number 
of descriptions of angling-days, together with dialogues breathing 
the sweetest sympathy with natural beauty and a pious philosophy 
that make Walton one of the most eloquen. teachers of virtue and 
religion. The expressions are as pure and sweet and graceful as the 
sentiment; and the occasional occurrence of a little touch of old- 
fashioned innocent pedantry only adds to the indefinable fascination of 
the work, breaking up its monotony like a ripple upon the sunny sur- 
face of a stream. No other literature possesses a book similar to the 
Complete A?2gler, the popularity of which seems likely to last as long 
as the language. A second part was added by Charles Cotton (see 
p. 176), a clever poet, the friend and adopted son of Izaak, and his rival 
in the passion for angling. The continuation, though inferior, breathes 
the same spirit, and, like it, contains many beautiful and simple lyrics 
in praise of the art, ^ 

§ 18. George Savile, Marquess of Halifax (1630-1695), one of 

A. D. 1620-1706.] HALIFAX. EVELYN-. PEPYS. 229 

the most illustrious statesmen of the Restoration, deserves notice on 
account of his political tracts, which, says Macaulay, " well deserve to 
be studied for their literary merit, and fully entitle him to a place 
among English classics." 

One of the most charming, as well as solid and useful, writers of this 
period was John Evelyn (1620-1706), a gentleman of good family and 
considerable fortune, whose life and character -afford a model of what 
is most to be envied and desired. Virtuous, accomplished, and modest, 
he distributed his time between literary and philosophical occupations 
and the never-cloying amusements of rural life. He was one of the 
founders of the delightful art, so successfully practised in England, of 
gardening and planting. His principal works are Sylva, a treatise on 
the nature and management of forest- trees, to the precepts of which, 
as well as to the example of Evelyn himself, the country is indebted for 
its abundance of magnificent timber; and Terra, a work on agriculture 
and gardening. In both of these books we see not only the practical 
good sense of the author, but the benevolence of his heart, and an ex- 
quisite sensibility to the beauties of nature, as well as a profound and 
manly piety. \V^n his feeling for the art of gardening he is the worth} 
successor of Bacon and predecessor of Shenstone. Evelyn has left also 
a Diary, giving a minute account of the state of society in his time; 
and his pictures of the incredible infamy and corruption of the court 
of Charles II., through the abominations of which the pure and gentle 
spirit of Evelyn passed, like the Lady in Comus, amid the bestial rout 
of the enchanter. His description of the tremendous fire of London 
in 1665, of which he was an eye-witness, is the most detailed as well as 
trustworthy and picturesque account of that awful calamity. It was at 
the country house of Evelyn, at Sayes Court, near Deptford, that Peter 
the Great was lodged during his residence in England ; and Evelyn 
gives a lamentable account of the dirt and devastation caused in the 
dwelling and the beautiful garden by the barbarian .monarch and his 
suite. Indeed he obtained from Government compensation for the 
injury done to his property. The Diary, as well as all the other works 
of this good man, abounds in traits of personal character. He, his 
family, and his friends, seem to have formed a little oasis of piety, 
virtue, and refinement, amid the desert of rottenness oftered by the 
higher society of those days ; and his writings will always retain the 
double interest derived from his personal virtues, and the fidelity with 
which they delineate a peculiar phase in the national history. 

§ 19. An original and even comic personality of this era is Samuel 
Pepys (1632-1703), whose individual character was as singular as his 
writings. He was the friendless cadet of an ancient family, but born in 
such humble circumstances that, after receiving some education at the 
Universit}^ he is supposed to have for some time exercised the trade of 
a tailor; and during his whole life he retained a most ludicrous passion 
for fine clothes, which he is never weary of describing with more than 
the gusto of a man-milliner. By the protection of a distant connec- 
tion, Sir Edward Montagu, h« was placed in a subordinate office in 



the Admiralty; and by his punctualitj^ honesty, and knowledge of busi* 
ness, he gradually rose to the important post of Secretary in that 
department. He remained many years in this office, and must be con- 
sidered as almost the only honest and able public official connected with 
the Naval administration during the reigns of Charles II. and James II. 
In the former of these the English marine was reduced, by the corrup- 
tion and rapacity of the Court, to the very lowest depth of degradation 
and inefficiency. The successor of Charles was by profession a seaman, 
and on his accession employed all his efforts to restore the service to its 
rormer vigor. Perhaps the onlj^ portion of that miserable King's admin- 
istration which can be regarded with any tiling but contempt arrd hor- 
ror, is the effort he made to improve the condition of the Fleet. To 
this object the honesty and activity of Pepys contributed; and after 
acquiring a sufficient fortune without any serious imputation on his in- 
tegrity, the old Secretary retired from the service to pass the evening of ^ 
his life in well-earned ease. ^During the whole of his long and active 
career, Pepys had amused himself, for the eternal gratitude of posterity, 
in writing down, day by day, in a sort of cipher or short hand, a Diary 
of everything he saw, did, or thought. After having been preserved 
for about a century and a half, this curious record has been deciphered 
and given to the world ; and the whole range of literature does not pre- 
sent a record more curious in itself, or exhibiting a more singular and 
laughable type of human character. Pepj's was not only by nature a 
thorough gossip, curious as an old woman, with a strong taste for 
occasional jollifications, and a touch of the antiquity and curiosity 
hunter, but he was necessarily brought into contact with all classes of 
persons, from the King and his ministers down to the poor half-starvf^d 
sailors whose pay he had to distribute. Writing entirely for himseh', 
Pepys, with ludicrous naivete, sets down the minutest details of his 
gradual rise in wealth and importance, noting every suit of clothes 
ordered by either himself or his wife, which he describes with rapturous 
enthusiasm, and chronicling every quarrel and reconciliation arising 
not of Mrs. Pepj's's frequent and not unfounded fits of jealousy; for he 
is suspiciously fond of frequenting the pleasant but profligate society of 
pretty actresses and singers. The Diary is a complete scandalous 
chronicle of a society so gay and debauched that the simple description 
of what took place is equal to the most dramatic picture of the novelist. 
The statesmen, courtiers, pla^'-ers, and demireps actually live before 
our eyes ; and there is no book that gives so lively a portraiture of one 
of the extraordinary states of society that then existed. All the minutias 
of dress, manners, amusements, and social life are vividly presented to 
us ; and it is really alarming to think of the uproar that would have 
taken place if it had come to light that a careful hand had been 
chronicling every scandal of the day. Pepys's own character — an in- 
imitable mixture of shrewdness, vanity, good sense, and simplicity — 
infinitely exalts the piquancy of his revelations; and his book possesses 
the double interest of the value and curiosity of its matter, and of the 
coloring given to that matter by the oddity of the narrator. 



§ 20, As a type of the fugitive literature of this age may be men- 
tioned the writings of Sir Roger L'Estrange (1616-1704), an active 
pamphleteer and hack writer in favor of the Royalist party. His sav- 
age diatribes against the opponents of the Court are now almost for- 
gotten, but they are curious as exhibiting a peculiar force of slatig and 
vulgar vivacity which were then regarder^ as smart writing. His works 
are full of the familiar expressions which were current in society; and 
though low in taste, are not without a certain fire. Like another 
writer of the same stamp, Tom Brown, he has given an example of 
how ephemeral must always be the success of that soi-disa?it humorous 
style which depends for its effect upon the employment of the current 
jargon of the town. In every age there are authors who trust to this 
for their popularity ; and the temporary vogue of such writers is gener- 
ally as great as is the oblivion to which they are certain to be con- 
demned. L'Estrange has curiously exemplified his mode of writing in 
a sort of prose paraphrase of the ancient Fables attributed to the mys- 
terious name of ^sop ; and his Life of that imaginary person is a rare 
specimen of the pert familiarity which at that time passed for wit. 



Db. Walter Chaeleton (1619-1707), physician 
to Charles II. and President of the College of Phy- 
sicians. He was a man of science and a theologian, 
a pliilosopher and an antiquarian. In 1C75 he pub- 
lished A brief Discourse concerning the different 
Wits of Men. One of his best productions was a 
translation of Epicurus'S Moral", 1670. The ren- 
dering is accurate and the English idiomatic. He 
was among the first who accounted for tlie differ- 
ences in men's minds by tlic size and form of the 

William Walsh (1663-1708), chiefly a critic, 
scholar, and patron of men of letters, but he himself 
published some fugitive pieces. Ue was member 

of Parliament for Worcestershire, and is men- 
tioned by Pope in the well-known lines, — 

" But why then publish ? Grajiville the polite, 
And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write." 

Chaeles Montagu, Earl of Halifax (1661- 
171.5), a great patron of letters during the reigns of 
William III. aud xVnue. He himself wrote some 
poems, but oftenest his name appeared on the early 
pages of authors' works, " fed with soft dedication 
all day long." He assisted Prior in the Citi/ Mouse 
and the Countn/ Mouse. He rose to great distinc- 
tion as a politician in the reign of William III., 
when he filled the office of Chancellor of the Ex- 
cliequer, and was raised to the peerage in 1714, soon 
after the accession of George L 




} 1. Contrast between the drama of Elizabeth and that of the Restoration. §2. SiB 
George Etherege. § 3. William Wycherley : his life and works. The 
Country Wife and the Plain Dealer. ^ 4. Sir John Vanbrugh. The Relapscy 
the Provoked Wife, the Confederacy, and the Provoked Husband. § 5. George 
Farquhar. The Constant Cmtple, the Inconstant, the Recruiting OJfcer, 
and the Beaux' Stratagem. §6. William Congreve : his life. 7. Iiis works. 
The Old Bachelor. The Double Dealer. Love for Love. The Mourning 
Bride. { 8. Jeremy Collier's attack of the stage : Congreve's reply. Con- 
greve's Way of the World. § 9. Thomas Oiway. The Orphan and Venice 
Preserved. § 10. Nathaniel Lee. Thomas Southerne. Isabella, or the 
Fatal Marriage, and Oroonoko. John Crowne. $ 11. Nicholas Rowe. 
Jane Shore and the Fair Penitent. 12. Mrs. Aphra Behn, Thomas Shad- 
well, and George Lillo. Lillo's George Barnwell, the Fatal Curiosity, 
and Arden of Favevbham. § 13. Character of English poetry of this era. 
Noble poets : Earl of Roscommon. Earl of Rochester. Sir Charles 
Sedley. Duke of Buckinghamshire. Earl of Dorset. § U. John 
Philips and John Pomfret. 

§ 1. In a previous chapter I have endeavored to sketch the immense 
revolution in dramatic literature, which is exemplified in the contrast 
between the age of Elizabeth and that of the Restoration. The theatre 
of the latter period, representing, as the theatre always must, the pre- 
vailing tone of sentiment and of society, is marked by the profound 
corruption which distinguishes the reign of Charles II., and which was 
the natural reaction after the strained morality of the Puritan dominion. 
The new drama differed from the old not only in its moral tone, but quite 
as widely in its literary form. The aim of the great writers who are iden- 
tified with the dawn of our national stage was to delineate nature and 
passion ; and therefore, as nature is multiform, they admitted into their 
serious plays comic scenes and characters, as they admitted eleVated 
feelings and language into their comedies. But at the Restoration the 
artificial distinction between tragedy and comedy was strongly marked, 
and generally maintained with the same severity as vipon the stage of 
France, which had become the chief model of imitation. In the place 
of the Romantic Drama arose the exaggerated, heroic, and stilted 
Tragedy on the one hand, and on the other the Comedy of artificial 
life, which, drawing its materials not from nature but from society, took 
for its aim the delineation not of character but of ma7i7ier$, which is 
indeed the proper object of what is correctly termed comedy in the 
strictest sense. Wit, therefore, now supplanted Humor; and England 
produced, during the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth centuries, a 
constellation of splendid dramatists. Their works are, it is true, now 

A. D. 1636-1715.] ETHEREGE. WYCHERLET. 233 

become almost unknown to the general reader; which is to be attributed 
to their abominable profligacy; but no one can have any conception of 
the powers of the English language and the brilliancy of English wit, 
who has not made acquaintance with these pieces. 

§ 2. This class of writers may be said to begin with Sir George 
Etherege (1636-1694), who was a man of fashion, and employed as 
a diplomatist. He died of a fall at Ratisbon, where he was residing 
as plenipotentiary. His principal work was entitled the Ma?i of 
Mode or Sir Fopli7ig Flutter, that character being the impersonation 
of the fashionable coxcomb of the day. Great vivacity of dialogue, 
combined with striking and unexpected turns of intrigue, form the gen- 
eral peculiarity of all the comedies of this time. Dryden and his once 
popular rival Shadwell must be regarded as the link connecting the 
elder drama with the new style ; and Etherege is the first who embod- 
ied the merits and defects of the latter; though Etherege was destined 
to be far outstripped both in the wit and gayety and in the immorality 
of his scenes. 

§ 3. A greater writer than Etherege, but exhibiting similar charac- 
teristics, was William Wycherley (1640-1715), born in 1640, of a 
good Shropshire family. His father, probably disgusted with the 
gloomy Puritanism of the reigning manners, sent^the future dramatist 
to be educated in France, where he was brought up in the brilliant 
household of the Duke of Montausier. Here the young man aban- 
doned his national faith and embraced Catholicism, probably regard- 
ing the latter as more especially the religion of a gentleman and man 
of fashion. Returning to England, adorned with all the graces of 
French courtliness, and remarkable for the beauty of his pei'son, Wych- 
erley, while nominally studying the Law, became a brilliant figure in 
the gay and profligate society of the day. In his literary career we do 
not find indications of any great precocity of geniiis : his first comedy, 
Love in a Wood, was not acted until he had reached the age of about 
thirty-two ; and the small number of his dramatic works, as well as 
the stj^e of their composition, seems to prove that he was neither very 
original in conception, nor capable of producing anything otherwise 
than by patient labor and careful revision. Love in a Wood was fol- 
lowed, in 1673, the next year, by the Gentle7nan Dancing-Master, the 
plot of which was borrowed from Calderon. His two greatest and 
most successful comedies are the Country Wife, acted in 1675, and the 
Plain Dealer, in 1677. Moving in the most brilliant society of his 
time, Wycherley was engaged in many intrigues, the most celebrated 
being that with the infamous Duchess of Cleveland, one of the innu- 
merable mistresses of Charles II. His grace and gayety attracted the 
notice of the king; and he was selected to superintend the education 
of the young Duke of Richmond, Charles's natural child ; but a secret 
marriage which he contracted with the Countess of Drogheda caused 
him to lose the favor of the court. His union with the lady, which 
commenced in an accidental and even romantic manner, was not such 
as to secure either his happiness or his interest; and after her death 


Wjcherley fell into such distress as to have remained several years in 
confinement for debt. He was at last liberated partly by the assistance 
of James II. ; and on this occasion, probably to gratify the king, he 
again rejoined the Catholic church, from which he had been t^^mpo- 
rarily reconverted. The remainder of Wycherley's life is melancholy 
and ignoble. Having long survived the literary types which were in 
fashion in his youth, with a broken constitution and an embarrassed 
fortune, he continued to thirst with vain impotence after sensual pleas- 
ure and literary glory. With the assistance of Pope, then a mere 
boy, but who had blazed out upon the world with sudden splendor, 
Wycherley concocted a huge collection of stupid and obscene poems, 
which fell dead upon the public. The momentarj^ friendship and bit- 
ter quarrel of the old man and the young critic form a curious and 
instructive picture. Wycherley died in 1715, at an advanced age, hav- 
ing, on his very death-bed, married a young girl of sixteen, with the 
sole purpose of injuring his family, and preventing them from receiv- 
ing his inheritance. 

It is by the Country Wife and the Plaiii Dealer that posterity will 
judge the dramatic genius of Wycherley. Both these plays indicate 
great deficiency of original invention ; for the leading idea of the first 
is evidently borrowed from the Ecole dcs Feinmes of Moliere, and that 
of the second from the same author's Misanthrope. As Macaulay has 
excellently observed, nothing can more clearly indicate the unspeak- 
able irioral corruption of that epoch in our drama, and the degree in 
which that corruption was exemplified by Wycherley, than to observe 
the way in which he has modified, while he borrowed, the data of the 
great French dramatist. The character of Agnes is so managed as 
never to forfeit our respect, while the corresponding personage, Mrs. 
Pinchwife, is in the English comedy a union of the most incredible 
immorality with ccftnplete ignorance of the world; while the leading 
incident of the piece, the stratagem by which Horner blinds the jeal- 
ousy of the husband, is of a nature which it is absolutely impossible 
to qualify in decent language. Nevertheless the intrigue of the piece 
is animated and amusing; the sudden and unexpected turns seem abso- 
lutely to take away one's breath ; and the dialogue, as is invariably the 
case in Wycherley's productions, is elaborated to a high degree of live- 
liness and repartee. In the Plain Dealer is still more painfully appar- 
ent that bluntness of feeling, or rather that total want of sensibility to 
moral impressions, which distinguishes the comic drama of the Resto- 
ration, and none of the writers in that drama more signally than Wych- 
erley. The tone of sentiment in Moliere, as in all creators of the high- 
est order, is invariably pure in its general tendency. Alceste, in spite 
of his faults, is a truly respectable, nay, a noble character. Those very 
faults indeed are but a proof of the nobility of his disposition : " di 
vino dolce e 1' aceto forte," says the Italian adage; and a generous 
heart, irritated past endurance by the smooth hypocrisy of social life, 
and bleeding from a thousand stabs inflicted by a cruel coquette, claims 
our sympathy even in the outbursts of its outraged feeling. But Wych- 

A. D. 1666-1726.] VANBRUGH. 235 

erlej borrowed Alceste; and in his hands the virtuovis and injured hero 
of MoHijre has become " a ferocious sensualist, who believes himself 
to be as great a rascal as he thinks everybody else." "And to make 
the whole complete," proceeds our admirable critic, " W^-cherley does 
not seem to have been aware that he was not drawing the portrait of 
an eminently honest man. So depraved was his moral taste, that, 
while he firmly believed that he was producing a picture of virtue too 
exalted for the commerce of this world, he was really delineating the 
greatest rascal that is to be found, even in his own writings." 

§ 4. The second prominent name in this constellation of brilliant 
comic writers, the stars of which bear a strong general resemblance to 
each other, is that of Sir John Vanbrugh (1666-1726). He was the son 
of a rich sugar-baker in London, probably, as his name indicates, of 
Dutch descent ; and was born, it is not quite certain whether in France or 
England, in 1666. He unquestionably passed some part of his youth in 
the former country ; and he united in his own person the rarely combined 
talents of architect and dramatist. As an architect he is one of the 
glories of the English school of the seventeenth century; and to his 
picturesque imagination we owe many works which, though open to 
criticism on the score of irregularity and a somewhat meretricious lux- 
uriance of style, will always be admired for their magnificent and 
princely richness of invention. Among the most remarkable of these 
are Castle Howard, and Blenheim, the latter being the splendid palace 
constructed at the national expense for the Duke of Marlborough. 
While engaged in this work Vanbrugh was involved in violent alterca- 
tions with that malignant old harpy, the Duchess Sarah; and his 
account of the Cj[uarrel is almost as amusing as a scene in one of his 
own comedies. Vanbrugh was appointed King-at-Arms, and was em- 
ployed, both in this function and as an architect, in many honorable 
posts. Thus he was deputed to carry the insignia of the Garter to the 
Elector of Hanover, and was afterwards knighted by that prince when 
he became King of England as George I., who also appointed him 
Comptroller of the Royal Works. He died in 1726, just before the 
close of that reign. 

Vanbrugh's comedies, the production of which commenced in 1697, are 
the Relapse^ the Provoked Wife, y^sop, the Confederacy, and the first 
sketch oi tht Provoked Husba7id, left unfinished, and afterwards complet- 
ed by Colley Cibber. It still keeps possession of the stage, and is one of 
the best and most popular comedies in the language. Vanbrugh's prin- 
cipal merit is inexhaustible liveliness of character and incident. His dia- 
logue is certainly less elaborate, less intellectual, and less highly finished 
than that of Wycherley : but he excels in giving his personages a readv 
ingenuity in extricating themselves from sudden difficulties ; and one 
great secret of the comic art he possesses to a degree hardly surpassed 
by Moliere himself; viz., the secret depending upon skilful repetition — 
an infallible talisman for exciting comic emotions. His fops, his booby 
squires, his pert chambermaids and valets, his intriguing ladies, his 
romps and his blacklegs, are all drawn from the life, and delineated 


"with great vivacity ; but there is a good deal of exaggeration in h's 
characters, an exaggeration which we easily pardon in consideration of 
the amusement they aftbrd us and the consistency with which their per- 
sonality is maintained — the more easily perhaps, as these types no 
longer exist in modern society, and we look upon them with the same 
sort of interest as we do upon the quaint costumes and fantastic atti- 
tudes of a collection of old portraits. In the Relapse Lord Foppington 
is an admirable impersonation of the pompous and suffocating cox- 
comb of those days. Sir Tunbelly Clumsy, the dense, brutal, ignorant 
country squire, a sort of prototype of Fielding's Western, forms an 
excellent contrast with him, and in Hoyden Vanbrugh has given the 
first specimen of a class of characters which he drew with peculiar 
skill, that of a bouncing rebellious girl, full of animal spirits and 
awaiting only the opportunity to break out of all rule. A variety of 
the same character is Corinna in the Co?ifederacy, with tlie difference 
that Hoyden has been brought up in the country, while Corinna, in 
spite of her inexperience, is already thoroughly corrupted, and, as she 
says herself, " a devilish girl at bottom." The most striking character 
in the Provoked Wife is Sir John Brute, whose drunken, uproarious 
blackguardism was one of Garrick's best impersonations. The Confed- 
eracy is perhaps Vanbrugh's finest comedy in point of plot. The two 
old usurers and their wives, whose weakness is plaj^ed upon by Dick 
Amlet and his confederate sharper Brass, Mrs. Amlet, the marchande 
de la toilette^ the equivocal mother of her graceless scamp, Corinna, 
and the maid Flippanta — all the dramatis personre are amusing in the 
highest degree. We feel indeed that we have got into exceedingly bad 
company; for all the men are rascals, and the women no better than 
they should be; but their life and conversation, "pleasant but wrong," 
are invariably animated and gay : and perhaps the very profligacy of 
their characters, by forbidding any serious sympathy with their fate, 
only leaves us freer to follow the surprising incidents of their career. 
The unfinished scenes of the comedy left by Vanbrugh, and afterwards 
completed under the title of the Provoked Hiishand, promised to be 
elaborated by the author into an excellent work. The journey to Lon- 
don of the country squire. Sir Francis Wronghead, and his inimitable 
family, is worthy of Smollett himself. The description of the caval- 
cade, and the interview between the new "Parliament-Man" in search 
of a place and the minister, are narrated with the richest humor. All 
the sentimental portions of the piece, the punishment and repentance 
of Lady Townley, and the contrast between her and her " sober " sister- 
in-law Lady Grace, were the additions of CoUey Cibber, who lived at a 
time when the moral or sermonizing element was thought essential in 
comedy. This part of the intrigue, however, had the honor of being 
the prototype of Sheridan's delightful scenes between Sir Peter and 
Lady Teazle in the School for Scandal. In brilliancy of dialogue Van- 
brugh is inferior to Wycherley; but his high animal spirits, and his 
extraordinary power of contriving sudden incidents, more than compen- 
sate for the deficiency. In Vanbiagh perhaps there is more of mtnd^ 
but less of intellect. 

A. D. 1678-1708.] FARQUIIAR. 237 

§ 5. George FARquHAR (1678-1708) was born at Londonderry in 
Ireland in 1678, and in his personal as well as his literary character he 
exemplifies the merits and the defects of his nation. He received some 
education at college, but at the early age of eighteen embraced the pro- 
fession of an actor. Having accidentally wounded one of his comrades 
in a fencing-match, he quitted the stage and served for some time in 
the army, in the Earl of Orrery's regiment. His military experience 
enabled him to give very lively and faithful representations of gay, 
rattling officers, and furnished him with materials for one of his pleas- 
antest comedies. His dramatic productions, which were mostly written 
after his return to his original profession, are more numerous than 
those of his predecessors, and consist of seven plays : Love and a 
Bottle, th& Constant Couple, the Liconstattt, the Stage Coach, the T'cvin 
Rivals, the Recruiting- Officer, and the Beaux' Stratagem. These were 
produced in rapid succession, for the literary career of poor Farquhar 
was compressed into a short space of time — between 1698, when the 
first of the above pieces was acted, and the author's early death about 
1708. The end of this brief course, which terminated at the age of 
thirty, was clouded by ill health and poverty; for Farquhar was 
induced to marry a lady who gave out, contrary to truth, that she 
was possessed of some fortune. 

The works of Farquhar are a faithful reflection of his gaj', loving, 
vivacious character; and it appears that down to his early death, not 
only did they go on increasing in joyous animation, but exhibit a con- 
stantly augmenting skill and ingenuity in construction, his last works 
being incomparably his best. Among them it will be unnecessary to 
dwell minutely on any but the Cofistant Couple (the intrigue of which 
is extremely animated), the Incojistant, and chiefly the Recruiting 
Officer and the Beaux' Stratage7n. In Farquhar's pieces we are de- 
lighted with the overflow of high animal spirits, generally accompanied, 
as in nature, by a certain frankness and generosity. We readily pardon 
the peccadillos of his personages, as we attribute their escapades less 
to innate depravity than to the heat of blood and the effervescence of 
youth. His heroes often engage in deceptions and tricks, but there 
is no trace of the deep and deliberate rascality which we see in 
Wycherley's intrigues, or of the thorough scoundrelism of Vanbrugh's 
sharpers. The Beaux' Stratagem is decidedly the best constructed of 
our author's plaj'^s ; and the expedient of the two embarrassed gentle- 
men, who come down into the country disguised as a master and his 
servant, though not perhaps very probable, is extremely well conducted, 
and furnishes a series of lively and amusing adventures. The contrast 
between Archer and Aimwell and Dick Amlet and Brass in Vanbrugh's 
Confederacy, shows a higher moral tone in Farquhar, as compared 
with his predecessor; and the numerous characters with whom they 
are brought in contact — Boniface the landlord. Cherry, Squire Sullen, 
and the inimitable Scrub, not to mention Gibbet the highwayman, and 
Father Foigard the Irish-French Jesuit — are drawn with never-failing 
vivacity. Passages, expressions, nay, sometimes whole scenes, may ba 


found among the dramas of Farquhar, stamped with that rich humor 
and oddity which engrave them on the memory. Thus Boniface's 
laudation of his ale, " as the saying is," Squire Sullen's inimitable con- 
versation with Scrub: " What day of the week is it.? Scrub. Sunday, 
sir. Std. Sunday.? Then bring me a dram ! " And Scrub's suspicions : 
" I am sure they were talking of me, for they laughed consumedly ! " — ■ 
such traits prove that Farquhar possessed a true comic genius. The 
scenes in the Recruiting Officer, where Sergeant Kite inveigles the two 
clowns to enlist, and those in which Captain Plume figures, are also of 
high merit. In those plays upon which I have not thought it necessary 
to insist, as the Constant Couj)le and the Inconstant, the reader will not 
fail to find scenes worked up to a great brilliancy of comic effect; as, 
for example, the acffnirable interview between Sir Harry Wildair and 
Lady Lurewell, when the envious coquette endeavors to make him 
jealous of his wife, and he drives her almost to madness by dilating on 
his conjugal happiness. Throughout Farquhar's plays the predominant 
qualitj^ is a gay geniality, which more than compensates for his less 
elaborate brilliancy in sparkling repartee. He seems always to write 
from his heart ; and therefore, though we shall in vain seek in his 
dramas for a very high standard of morality, his writings are free from 
that inhuman tone of blackguard heartlessness which disgraces the 
comic literature of the time. 

§ 6. The dramatic literature of this epoch naturally divides itself 
into the two heads of Comedy and Tragedy; and having now to speak 
of an author whose reputation in his own ^ay was unrivalled in both 
departments, I shall place him here as a sort of link connecting them 
together. This was William Congreve (1670-1729), who will always 
stand at the very head of the comic dramatists, while he certainly occu- 
pies no undistinguished place among the tragedians. He was born in 
Yorkshire of an ancient and honorable family, in 1670; and bis father 
being employed in a considerable post in Ireland, the youth received 
his education in that country, first at a school in Kilkenny, and after- 
wards at the University of Dublin. Here he acquired a degree of schol- 
arship, particularly in the department of Latin literature, which placed 
him far above the generality of contemporary writers of belles Icttrcs, 
and he came to London, nominally to study the law in the Temple, but 
really to play a distinguished part in the fashionable and intellectual 
circles of the time. During his whole life he seems to have been the 
darling of society; and possessing great personal and conversational 
attractions, together with a cold an^ somewhat selfish character, was 
the perfect type of what Thackeray, adopting the expressive slang of 
our day, has qualified as the "fashionable literary swell." He thirsted 
after fame as a man of elegance and as a man of letters ; but as the 
literary profession was at that time in a very degraded social position, 
he was tormented by the difficulty of harmonizing the two incompatible 
aspirations : and it is related that when Voltaire paid him a visit he 
affected the character of a mere gentleman, upon which the French wit, 
with equal acuteness and sense, justly reproved his vanity by saying. 

A. D. 1670-1729.] CONGREYE. 239 

"If jou had been a mere gentleman I should not have come to see 
you." Congreve's career was singularly auspicious : the brilliancy of 
his early works received instant recompense in solid patronage. Suc- 
cessive and hostile ministers rivalled each other in rewarding him : he 
obtained numerous and lucrative sinecures ; and by his prudence was 
able not only to frequent, as an honored guest, the society of the 
greatest and most splendid of his time, but to accumulate a large for- 
tune. A disorder of the eyes, under which he long suffered, ultimately 
terminated in blindness ; but neither this infirmity nor the gout could 
diminish the grace and gayety of his conversation, or render him less 
acceptable in company. He was regarded by the poets, from Dryden 
to Pope, with enthusiastic admiration : the former hailed his entrance 
upon the literary arena with fervent praise, and in some very beautiful 
and touching lines named Congreve his successor in that poetical 
throne he had so long and gloriously filled, imposing upon his friend- 
ship the task of defending his memory from slander; and Pope, when 
publishing his great work of the translation of Homer, passed over the 
powerful and the illustrious to dedicate his book to the patriarch of 
letters. Congreve, like most men of fashion at that time, was cele- 
brated for many bonnes fortunes : his most durable connection was with 
the fascinating and generous Mrs. Bracegirdle, so famous for the ex- 
cellency of her acting and the beauty of her person. In his old age, 
however, Congreve appears to have neglected her for the Duchess of 
Marlborough, daughter and inheritress of the great Duke; and at his 
death he bequeathed the bulk of his fortune, amounting to the large 
sum of 10,000/., not to the comparatively needy actress, nor to his own 
relatives, then comparatively poor, but to the Duchess, in whose im- 
mense revenue such a legacy was but as a drop in the ocean. This 
circumstance furnishes an additional proof that Congreve was more 
remarkakjf for ostentation than for generosity or warmth of heart. 
He died in 1729, and was honored with a magnificent and almost na- 
tional funeral. His body lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, and 
was followed to the tomb in Westminster Abbey by all that was most 
illustrious in England. 

§ 7. The literary career of Congreve begins with a novel of insig- 
nificant merit, which he published under the psendonyme of Cleophib ; 
out the real inauguration of his glory was the representation, in 1693, 
cf his first comedy, the Old BacJielor. This work, the production of a 
young man of twenty-three, was received by the public and by the 
critics with a tempest of applause. In spite of the bad construction 
and improbability of the intrigue, anii of the conv,entional and so to 
say mechanical conception of the characters, it was easy to foresee in 
if all the peculiar merits which belong to the greatest comic dramatists 
of the eighteenth century. The chief of these is the unrivalled ease 
and brilliancy of the dialogue. Congreve's scenes are one incessant 
flash and sparkle of the finest repartee; the dazzling rapier-thrusts of 
wit and satiric pleasantry succeed each other without cessation ; and 
the wit, as is always the case wheu of the highest order, is allied ta 


shrewd sense and acute observation of mankind. Indeed the main 
defect of Congreve's dialogue is a plethora of ingenious allusion ; for 
he falls into the error of making his fools and coxcombs as brilliant as 
his professed wits — a fault common to most of the authors of his 
school. But the quality in which he stands alone is his skill in divest- 
ing this brilliant intellectual sword-play of every shade of formality 
and constraint. His conversations are an exact copy of refined and 
intellectual conversation, though of course containing far more bril- 
liancy than any real conversation ever exhibited. This air of consum- 
mate ease and idiomatic vivacity gives to his style a peculiar flavor 
which no other author has attained; and perhaps no English writer 
furnishes so many examples of the capacity of our language as a 
vehicle for intellectual display. I have said that the characters in the 
Old Bachelor are conventional ; they are nevertheless exceedingly 
amusing : as, for example, Captain Bluff", a reproduction of the bullj'^- 
ing braggadocio so frequently placed upon the stage. This hero's 
mention of Hannibal is deliciously comic : " Hannibal was a very 
pretty felloAv in those days, it must be granted. But, alas ! sir, were 
he alive now he would be nothing — nothing in the earth 1 " This is 
of the strain of Parolles, of Bessus, and of Bobadil. We can hardly 
wonder at, though we may not confirm, the enthusiasm of Congreve's 
contemporaries, when, with Dryden at their head, they hailed this 
brilliant debutant as the successor and the more than rival of Fletcher 
and Shakspeare. 

Congreve's second theatrical venture was the Double Dealer^ acted in 
1694. The success of this comedy was much less than that of its pred- 
ecessor ; and the comparative failure is to be attributed to the admix- 
ture, in the plot, of characters and incidents too gloomy and tragic to 
harmonize with the follies and vanities that form the woof of comedy. 
The wickedness of Lady Touchwood is of a tint too funerpil to har- 
monize with the brilliant and shifting colors of comedy ; and the vil- 
lanous plots of Maskwell are so intricate and complex that the puzzled 
reader is unable to follow them. As in Shakspeare's Comedy of Errors^ 
the confusion betvveen the two pairs of twins is so complete that the 
reader, as much embarrassed as the personages in the piece, loses the 
thread of the story, and therefore the interest which is the source of 
pleasure, so in Congreve's play the abstruseness of the intrigue defeats 
its own purpose. Many of the minor scenes and characters, however, 
are full of comic verve. 

Congreve's masterpiece is Love for Love, which was acted in 1695. 
This is one of the most perfect ftomedies in the whole range of litera- 
ture. The intrigue is effective, and the characters exhibit infinite 
variety, and relieve each other with unrelaxing spirit. The pretended 
madness of Valentine, the unexpected turns in his passion for Angelica, 
Sir Sampson Legend, the doting old astrologer Foresight, Mrs. Frail, 
]Miss Prue (a character something like Vanbrugh's Corinna, or Wj^chei*- 
lej^'s Hoyden), and above all the inimitable Ben — the first attempt to 
portray on the stage the rough, unsophisticated sailor — the whole 

A. D. 1650-1726.] COLLIER. 241 

dramatis perso7ice^ down to the most insignificant, are a crowd of pic- 
turesque and well-contrasted oddities. The scene in which Sir Sampson 
endeavors to persuade his son to renounce his inheritance, that between 
Valentine and Trapland the old usurer (almost as good as Don Juan's 
reception of M. Dimanche), the arrival of Ben from sea, and his con- 
versation with Miss Prue, — these, and many more, are the highest 
ej:altation of comedy. Sir Sampson is one of those big, blustering 
characters that make their waj' by noise and cor^fidence ; he has some- 
thing in common with Ben Jonson's Mammon, and was the model 
whence Sheridan aftenvards copied his Sir Anthony Absolute. 

Two years after this triumph Congreve burst forth upon the world 
in a completely new department of the drama — that of tragedy. He 
produced the Mourning Bride, which was received with no less ardent 
encomiums than the comedies. This piece is written in that pompous, 
solemn, and imposing strain which the adoption of French or classical 
models had rendered universal, and which Dryden had adopted as far 
as his bold and muscular genius, so rebellious to authority, permitted. 
The distress in this tragedy is extremely deep, but Congreve does not 
succeed in touching the heart. The. chief merits of the piece consist in 
dignified passages of declamation, or what the French call tirades; 
and there are several descriptive passages of considerable power and 
melody, though their merit is rather that of narrative than dramatic 
poetry. Of this kind is the perpetually quoted description of a temple, 
which the extravagant eulogy of Johnson, by absurdly comparing it to 
pictorial passages in Shakspeare, has deprived of its due meed of 
applause. If " faint praise " " damns," exaggerated laudation damns 
still more fatally. 

§ 8. About this time took place an event of equal importance to 
Congreve and to the literary character of that age. This was the 
attack directed by Jeremy Collier (1650-1726), an ardent nonjuring 
clergyman, against the profaneness and immorality of the English 
stage. His pamphlet was written with extraordinary fire, wit, and 
energy; and the evil which he combated was so general, so inveterate, 
and so glaring, that he immediately ranged upon his side all moral and 
thinking men in the nation. He anatomized with a vigorous and un- 
sparing scalpel the foul ulcer of theatrical immorality, and cauterized 
it with such merciless satire that Dryden, powerful as he was in contro- 
versy, remained silent out of shame. The gauntlet thrown down by 
Collier, and which conscious guilt prevented Dryden from lifting, was 
taken up by Congreve ; but the defence he made was poor, and the vic- 
fory remained, both as regards morality and wit, on the side of Collier. 
The controversy had the eifect of inaugurating a better tone in the 
Jrama and in lighter literature in general ; and from that period dates 
the gradual but rapid improvement which has ended in rendering the 
literature of England the purest and healthiest in Europe. 

Congreve's last dramatic work was the Way of the World, performed 
in 1700. Its success was not great, although its dialogue exhibits the 
rare charm which never deserted him, and though it contains in Milla- 


mant one of the most delicious portraits of a gay, triumphant beauty, 
coquette, and fine lady ever placed upon the stage. It is like the porce- 
lain figures in old Dresden china; crisp, sparkling, highly j-et delicately 
colored, filling the mind with images of grace and fancy. In his old 
age the poet produced a volume of fugitive and miscellaneous trifles, 
which do not much rise above the level of a class of composition 
extremely fashionable at that period. 

§ 9. Among the exclusively tragic dramatists of the age of Drj-den 
the first place belongs to Thomas Otway (1651-1655), -^yn died, after 
a life of wretchedness and irregularity, at the early age of thirty- four. 
He received a regular education at Winchester School and Oxford, 
and very early embraced the profession of the actor, for which he had 
no natural aptitude, but which familiarized him with the technical 
requirements of theatrical writing. He produced in the earlier part of 
his career three tragedies, Alcibiades, Don Carlos, and Titus and Bere- 
nice, which may be regarded as his first trial-pieces; and about 1677 he 
served some time in a dragoon regiment in Flanders, to which he had 
been appointed by the protection of a patron. Dismissed from his 
post in consequence of irregularities of conduct, he returned to the 
stage, and in the years extending from 1680 to his death, he wrote four 
more tragedies, Caius Marcius, the Orpha7i, the Soldier's Fortune, and 
Venice Preserved. All these works, with the exception of the Orphan 
and Venice Preserved, are now nearly forgotten ; but the glory of 
Otway is so firmly established upon these latter, that it will probably 
endure as long as the language itself. The life of this unfortunate poet 
was an uninterrupted series of poverty and distress ; and his death has 
frequentlj^ been cited as a striking instance of the miseries of a literary 
career. It is related that, when almost starving, the poet received a 
guinea from a charitable friend, on which he rushed off to a baker's 
shop, bought a roll, and was choked while ravenously swallowing the 
first mouthful. It is not quite certain whether this painful anecdote is 
strictly true, but it is incontestable that Otway's end, like his life, was 
miserable. How far his misfortunes were unavoidable, and how far 
attributable to the poet's own improvidence, it is now impossible to 
determine. Otway, like Chatterton, like Gilbert, like Tasso, and like 
Cervantes, is generally adduced as an example of the miserable end 
of genius, and of the world's ingratitude to its greatest benefactors. 

As a tragic dramatist Otway's most striking merit is his pathos ; and 
he possesses in a high degree the power of uniting pathetic emotion 
with the expression of the darker and more ferocious passions. The 
distress in his pieces is carried to that intense and almost hysterical 
pitch which we see so frequently in Ford and Beaumont and Fletcher, 
and so rarely in Shakspeare. The sufferings of Monimia in the Orphan, 
and the moral agonies inflicted upon Belvidera in Venice Preserved, are 
carried to the highest pitch, but we see tokens of the essentially second- 
rate quality of Otway's genius the moment he attempts to delineate 
madness. Belvidera's ravings are the expression of a disordered fancy, 
and not, like those of Lear or of Ophelia, the lurid flashes of reason 

A. D. 1651-1692.] OTWAY. LEE. 243 

and consciousness lighting up for an instant the tossings of a mind 
agitated to its profoundest depths. In Vejttce Preserved Otway has not 
attempted to preserve historical accuracj^ but he has succeeded in pro- 
ducing a very exciting and animated plot, in M^hich the w^eak and 
uxorious Jaffier is well contrasted with the darker traits of his friend 
and fellow-conspirator Pierre, and the inhuman harshness and cruelty 
of the Senator Priuli with the ruffianly thirst for blood and plunder in 
Renault. The frequent declamatory scenes, reminding the reader of 
Dryden, as, for instance, the quarrels and reconciliation of Pierre and 
Jaffier, the execution of the two friends, and the despair of Belvidera, 
are worked up to a high degree of excellence ; and Otway, with the 
true instinct of dramatic fitness, has introduced, as elements of the deep 
distress into which he has plunged his principal characters, many of 
those familiar and domestic details from which the high classical dram- 
atist would have shrunk as too ignoble. Otway in many scenes of 
this play has introduced what may be almost called comic matter, as 
in the amorous dotage of the impotent old senator and the courtesan 
Aquilina; but these, though powerfully and naturally delineated, are 
of too disgusting and odious a nature to be fit subjects for representa- 
tion. Otwa3''s stj'le is vigorous and racy ; the reader will incessantly 
be reminded of Dryden, though the author of Vetiice Preserved is far 
superior to his great master in the quality of pathos ; and in reading 
his best passages we are perpetually struck by a sort of flavor of 
Ford, Heywood, Beaumont, and other great masters of the Eliza- 
bethan era. 

§ 10. No account of the drama of this period would be complete 
without some mention of Nathaniel Lee (d. 1692), a tragic poet who 
not only had the honor of assisting Dryden in the composition of sev- 
eral of his pieces, but who, in spite of adverse circumstances, and in 
particular of several attacks of insanity, one of which necessitated his 
confinement during four years in Bedlam, possessed and deserved a 
high reputation for genius. He was educated at Westminster School 
and Cambridge, and was by profession an actor: he died in extreme 
poverty in 1692. His original dramatic works consist of eleven trage- 
dies, the most celebrated of which is The Rival ^tieens, or Alexander 
the Great, in which the heroic extravagance of the Macedonian con- 
queror is relieved by amorous complications arising from the attach- 
ment of the two strongly-opposed characters of Roxana and Statira. 
Among his other works may be enumerated Theodosius, Mithridates, 
and the pathetic drama of Lucius Junius Brutus, the interest of which 
turns on the condemnation of the son by the father. In all these plays 
we find a sort of wild and exaggerated tone of imagery, someUmes 
reminding us of Marlowe : but Lee is far superior in tenderness to the 
author of Faustus ; nay, in this respect he surpasses Dryden. In the 
beautiful but feverish bursts of declamatory eloquence which are fre- 
quent in Lee's plays, it is possible to trace something of that violence 
and exaggeration which are perhaps derived from the tremendous 
malady of which he was so long a victim. 


Thomas Southerne (1659-1746) was born at Dublin, but passed the 
greater part of his life in England. He studied the Law in the Temple, 
but quitted that profession for the army : it is known that he served as 
a captain in one of the corps employed in the suppression of the unfor- 
tunate Duke of Monmouth's rebellion, and in all probability was present 
at the battle of Sedgemoor. The close of his life was tranquil and sur- 
rounded with competence. Southerne was the author of ten plays, the 
most conspicuous of which are the tragedies of Isabella^ or the Fatal 
Marriage, and the pathetic drama of Oroonoko. The latter is founded 
upon the true adventures of an African prince : the subject is said to 
have been given to Southerne by Aphra Behn, of whom we shall have 
to say a few words presently, and who, being the daughter of a govern- 
or of Surinam, where the events took place, was personally acquainted 
both with the incidents and the individuals which form the groundwork 
of the story. The sufferings of the generous and unhappy African, torn 
by the slave-trade from his country and his home, and his love for 
Imoinda, furnish good materials to the pathetic genius of Southerne, 
who was the first English author to hold up to execration the cruelties 
of that infernal traffic that so long remained a stain upon our country. 
The distress in Isabella is also carried to a high degree of intensity, and 
tenderness and pathos may be asserted to be the primary characteristics 
of Southerne's dramatic genius. 

Another minor, but not unimportant, name among the dramatists of 
this period is that of John Crowne (1661-1698). Among the seven- 
teen pieces which he produced, I may mention the tragedy of Tkyestes 
and the comedy entitled Sir Courtly Nice. Both of these works pos- 
sess considerable merit, though the revolting nature of the legend which 
forms the subject of the first is of a nature that ought to exclude it from 
the dramatist's attempt. We may remember that these dreadful Greek 
traditions had previously been preferred by Chapman. Crowne is re- 
markable for the beauty of detached passages of sentiment and descrip- 
tion, and in particular bears some resemblance to his predecessor in the 
dignity and elegance with which he inculcates those moral precepts 
which Euripides was so fond of introducing, and which in the Greek 
Drama are called yxw^iai, 

§ 11. In success in life and social position Nicholas Rowe (1673- 
1718) was a happy contrast to the wretched career of many dramatists 
by no means his inferiors in talent. He was born in 1673, and studied 
in the Temple, employing his leisure hours in writing for the stage. 
He was cordially received in the brilliant and literary society of his day, 
and was a member of that intellectual society which surrounded Pope, 
Swift, Arbuthnot, and Prior, and who were bound together by such 
strong ties of intimacy and friendship. It is said, however, that Rowe, 
though much admired for his social accomplishments, was regarded as 
of a somewhat cold and selfish nature ; in short, there seem to be many 
elements of character in common between him and Congreve. He was 
not only in possession of an independent fortune, but was sple'ndidly 
rewarded for his literary exertions by the gift of many lucrative places 

A. D. 1673-1789] ROWE. BEEN-. 245 

in the patronage of Government. Thus he wai Poet Laureate and Sur- 
vej^or of the Customs, Clerk of the Council in the service of the Prince 
of Wales, and Clerk of the Presentations. He was an example of that 
mode which for some time was general in England, of rewarding with 
profitable or sinecure appointments merit of a literary kind. The pro- 
fession of letters enjoyed a transient gleam of prosperity and consid- 
eration ; the period preceding and that following this epoch being re- 
markable for the want of social consideration — nay, the degradation 
attaching to the author's profession. It was not till the vast extension 
of the reading public, by offering the writer the most honorable form of 
recompense and the purest motives for exertion, that he could be relieved 
from the humiliation of a servile dependence on individual patrons, 
on the one hand, and the fluctuations of temporary success and prevail- 
ing poverty, on the other. Rowe was the first who undertook an 
edition of Shakspeare upon true critical and philological principles ; 
and, though his work is marked by the inevitable deficiency of an age 
when the art of the commentator, as applied to an author of the six- 
teenth century, was still in its infancy, yet his edition gives some ear- 
nest of better things, and has, at all events, the merit of exhibiting a 
profound and loyal admiration of the great poet's genius. Rowe died 
in 1718. His dramatic productions amount to seven, the principal being 
yane Shore, the Fair Penitent, and Lady Jane Grey, all, of course, 
tragedies. Tenderness is Rowe's chief dramatic merit; in the diction 
of his works we incessantly trace the influence of his study of the man- 
ner of the great Elizabethan playwrights. This imitation is often only 
superficial ; and in some cases, as, for example, in Jane Shore, extends 
little farther than an aping of the quaintness of the elder authors ; but 
in many points Rowe did all that a nature, I suspect not very impres- 
sionable, could do to catch some echo of those deep tones of pathos 
and passion that thrill through the writings of the great elder dram- 
atists. In the Fair Pe?iite7it we have an almost intolerable load of sor- 
row accumulated on the head of the heroine. It is curious that the 
character of the seducer in this play, " the gallant, gay Lothario," 
should have become the proverbial type of the faithless lover — just as 
Don Juan has been in our own time — and should have furnished 
Richardson with the outline which that great painter of character 
afterwards filled up so successfully in his masterly portrait of Love- 

§ 12. Mrs. Aphra Behn (d. 1689), celebrated in her day under the 
poetical appellation of Astraea, enjoyed some reputation for the gayety, 
and, I may add, for the immorality, of her comedies. She was one of 
those equivocal characters, half literary, half political adventurers, who 
naturally a|>pear in times of public agitation. The daughter of a gov- 
ernor of Surinam, she had passed her youth in that colony, and, coming 
to Europe, was much mixed up in the obscurer intrigues of the Restora- 
tion. She resided some time in Holland, and seems to have rendered 
services to Charles II. as a kind of political spy. She died in 16S9, and 
her novels, as well as comedies, though now forgotten, may be consulted 
21 * 


as curious evidences of the state of literary and social feeling that pre- 
vailed at that agitated epoch. 

The only other names that need be cited among the dramatists of this 
period are those of Shadwell and Lillo. Thomas Shadwell (1640- 
1692) wrote seventeen plays, but is now chiefly known by Dryden's 
satire as the hero of Mac-F'lecknoe, and the Og of Adsaiojn and Achito- 
fhel. On the Revolution, he succeeded Dryden as Poet Laureate. 
George Lillo (1693-1739) is in many respects a remarkable and sin- 
gular literary figure. He was a jeweller in London, and appears to 
have been a prudent and industrious tradesman, and to have accumu- 
lated ^ fair competence. His dramatic works, which were probably 
composed as an amusement, consist of a peculiar species of what may 
be called tragedies of domestic life, in some respects resembling those 
drames which are at present so popular in France. The principal of 
them are George Barnivell, WiQ Fatal Curiosity, and Ardcji of Fovers- 
hani. Lillo composed sometimes in verse and sometimes in prose; 
he based his pieces upon remarkable examples of crime, generally in 
the middle ranks of society, and worked up the interest to a high pitch 
of intensity. In George Barit'^ell is traced the career of a London 
shopman — a real person — who is lured by the artifices of an aban- 
doned woman and the force of his own passion first into embezzlem.ent, 
and then into the murder of an uncle. The hero of the play, like his 
prototype in actual life, expiates his offences on the scaffold. The sub- 
ject of the Fatal Curiosity, Lillo's most powerful work, is far more 
dramatic in its interest. A couple, reduced by circumstances, and by 
the absence of their son, to the lowest depths of distress, receive^into 
their house a stranger, who is evidently in possession of a large sum ; 
while he is asleep, they determine to assassinate him for the purpose 
of plunder, and afterwards discover in their victim their long-lost son. 
It will be remembered that the tragic story of Arden of Fever sha7n, a 
tissue of conjugal infidelity and murder, was an event that really took 
place in the reign of Elizabeth, and had furnished materials for a very 
popular drama, attributed, but on insufficient evidence, to Shakspeare 
among other playwrights of the time. It was again revived by Lillo, 
and treated in his characteristic manner — a manner singularly intense 
in spirit, though prosaic in form. Indeed, the very absence of imagina- 
tion in this writer may have contributed to the effect he produced, by 
augmenting the air of reality in his conceptions. He has something 
of the gloom and sombre directness which we see in Webster or Tour- 
neur, but he is entirely devoid of the wild, fantastic fancy which distin- 
guishes that great writer. He is real, but with the reality, not of Walter 
Scott, but of Defoe. 

§ 13. From the time of Dryden to about the end of the*first quarter 
of the eighteenth century English poetry exhibits a character equally 
removed from the splendid brilliancy of the epoch of Elizabeth and the 
picturesque intensity of the new Romantic school. Correctness and 
good sense were the qualities chieflj' aimed at; and if the writers avoid 
the abuse of ingenious allusion which disfigures the productions of 

A. D. 1634-1708.] R0SC0M3I0N. SEDLEY. PHILIPS. 247 

Cowley, Donne, and Qiiarles, they are equally devoid of the passionate 
and intense spirit which afterwards animated our poetry. It is remark- 
able how many of the writers of this time were men of rank and fash- 
ion : their literary efforts were regarded as the elegant accomplishment 
of amateurs ; and, though their more ambitious productions are generally 
didactic and critical, and their lighter works graceful and harmonious 
songs, they must be regarded less as the deliberate results of literary 
labor than as the pastime of fashionable dilettanti. Earl of Roscom- 
mon (1634-16S5), the nephew of the famous Strafford, produced a poeti- 
cal Essay on Translated Verse-and a version of the Art of Poetry from 
Horace, which were received by the public and the men of letters with 
an extravagance of praise attributable to the respect then entertained 
for any intellectual accomplishment in a nobleman. Earl of Roches- 
ter (1647-16S0), so celebrated for his insane debaucheries and the 
witty eccentricities which made him one of the most prominent figures 
in the profligate court of Charles II., produced a number of poems, 
chiefly songs and fugitive lyrics, which proved how great were the 
natural talents he had wasted in the most insane extravagance : his 
death-bed conversion and repentance produced by the arguments of 
Bishop Burnet, who has left an interesting and edifying account of his 
penitent's last moments, show that, amid all his vices, Rochester's 
mind retained the capacity for better things. Many of his productions 
are unfortunately stained with such profanity and indecency, that they 
deserve the oblivion into which they ai-e now fallen. 

Sir Charles Sedley (1639-1701) was another glittering star in the 
court firmament; he was a most accomplished gentleman, and his life 
was far more regular, as well as more tranquil, than that of Rochester: 
his comedy, the Mulberry Gardeji, is not devoid of gaj^ety and wit, 
and contains several songs of merit. Many other slight lyrics prove 
that Sedley possessed the grace, airiness, and ingerwaity, which are the 
principal requisites of this species of writing. 

To the same category may be ascribed the Duke of Buckingham 
(Sheffield) (1649-1720) and Earl of Dorset (1637-1705), perfect speci- 
mens of the aristocratic literary dilettante of those days. The former 
is best known by his Essay on Poetry, written in the heroic couplet ; 
the latter by his charming, playful song- — To all you ladies noiv on 
land, said to have been written at sea on the eve of an engagement 
with the Dutch fleet under Opdam. It is addressed by the courtly 
volunteer to the ladies of Whitehall, and breathes the gay and gallant 
spirit that animates the chanson jnilitaire, in which the French so much 

§ 14. The onlj- poets of any comparative importance, not belonging 
to the higher classes of society, were Philips and Pomfret, both belong- 
ing to the end of the seventeenth century. John Philips (1676-170S) 
is the author of a half-descriptive, half-didactic poem on the manu- 
facture of Cider, written upon the plan of the Georgics of Virgil ; but 
he is now known to the general reader hy his Splendid Shilling, a 
plcasantyV// d'csprit, in which the learned and pompous style of Milton 


is agreeably parodied, by being applied to the most trivial subject. Such 
parodies are common, and by no means difficult of execution ; but 
among them there will always be some which, either from their origi- 
nality as first attempts in a particular style, or from the peculiar felicity 
of the imitation, will excite and retain a higher popularity than gen- 
erally rewards trifles of this nature. Such has been the peculiar good 
fortune of Philips. John Pomfret (1667-1703) was a clergyman, and 
the only work by which he is now remembered is his poem of The 
Choice, giving a sketch of such a life of rural and literary retirement 
as has been the hoc erat in votis of so many. The images and ideas 
are of that nature that will always come home to the heart and fancy 
of the reader; and it is to this naturalness and accordance with uni- 
versal sympathy, rather than to anything very original either in its 
conception or its execution, that the poem owes the hold it has so long 
retained upon the attention. 

A. D. 1632-1704,] JOHN LOCKE. 249 



§ 1. John Locke : his life. § 2. His works. Letters on Toleration, Treatise on 
Civil Government. § 3. Essay on the Human Understanding. § 4. Essay on 
Education. On the Reasonableness of Christianity. On the Conduct of th& 
Understanding. $ 5. Isaac Barrow : his life and attainments. His iHermons. 
§6. Characteristics of the Anglican divines. John Pearson. $7. Aucn-' 


Sprat. William Sherlock. ^ 9. Progress of the physical sciences towards 
the end of the seventeenth century. Origin of the Royal Society. Dr. John 
WiLKiNS. § 10. Scientific writers. $ 11. Sir Isaac Newton. § 12. John 
Rat. Robert Boyle. Thomas Bxjrnet. § 13. Bishop Burnet. His 
History of the Reformation, and other works. 

§ 1. The period of the great and beneficent revolution of i688 was 
characterized hy the establishment of constitutional freedom in the 
State, and no less by a powerful outburst of practical progress in science 
and philosophy. It was this period that produced Newton in physical 
and Locke in intellectual science. The latter, in his character and 
career, offers the most perfect type of the good man, the patriotic 
citizen, and the philosophical investigator. John Locke (1632-1704) 
was born in 1632, educated at Westminster School and Christ-Church, 
Oxford, where he particularly devoted himself to the study of the phys- 
ical sciences, and especially of medicine. He undoubtedly intended to 
practise the latter profession, but was prevented from doing so by the 
weakness of his constitution, and a tendency to asthma, which in after 
life obliged him to retire from those public employments for which his 
integrity and talents so well fitted him. The direction of his studies at 
Oxford must have tended to inspire him with distaste and contempt for 
that adherence to the scholastic method which still prevailed in the 
University, and to excite in him a strong hostility to that stationary or 
rather retrograde spirit which sheltered itself under the venerable and 
much-abused name of Aristotle. There is no question that Locke's 
investigations during the thirteen years of his residence at Oxford had. 
been much turned to metaphysical subjects, and that he had seen the 
necessity of applying to this branch of knowledge that experimental or 
inductive method of which his great master Bacon was the apostle. In 
1664 he accompanied Sir Walter Vane, as his secretary, on a diplomatic 
mission to Brandenburg, and returning to Oxford in the following year, 
refused a flattering offer made him by the Duke of Ormond of consid- 
erable preferment in the Irish Church. His reasons for declining to 
take orders were equally honorable to Locke's good sense and to his 
high conscientious feeling. He declined the favor on the ground of his 
not experiencing that internal vocation vdthout which no man should 


enter the priestly profession. In 1666 Locke became acquainted with 
Lord Ashley, afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury, and subsequently so cele- 
brated for his political talents and for his unprincipled and factious 
conduct when Chancellor and the head of the parliamentary opposi- 
tion. He is said to have rendered himself useful to this statesman by 
his medical skill, and unquestionably secured his intimacy and respect 
by the charms of his conversation and the virtues of his character. He 
attached himself intimately both to the domestic circle and to the 
political fortunes of this statesman, in whose house he resided several 
years, having undertaken the education first of the Chancellor's son 
and afterwards of his grandson, the latter of whom has left no un- 
worthj' name as an elegant, philosophical, and moral essajast. Locke's 
acquaintance with Shaftesbury brought him into daily and intimate 
contact with manj'^ of the most distinguished politicians and men of 
letters of the dvLj, among whom I may mention the all-accomplished 
Halifax, Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, and many others. Locke 
fully shared in the frequent and violent vicissitudes of Shaftesbury's 
agitated career. He was nominated, on his patron becoming Chan- 
cellor in 1672, Secretary of the Presentations, with which he combined 
another appointment; but these he lost in the following j-ear on the 
first fall of his patron. In 1675 he visited France for his health, and his 
journals and letters are not only valuable for the accurate but very 
unfavorable account they give of the then state of French societj', but 
are exceedingly amusing, animated, and gay. In 1679 Locke returned 
to England and rejoined Shaftesbury on his second accession to power 
during that stormy period when he was at the head of the furious 
agitation in favor of the Exclusion-Bill depriving the Duke of York, 
afterwards James II., and then Heir- Apparent, of the right of succeed- 
ing to the throne, on the ground of his notorious sj^mpathies with the 
Roman Catholic religion. The Chancellor again fell from power, was 
arraigned for High Treason, and though the bill of indictment was 
ignored by a patriotic jury, fled to Holland, where he died in 1683. 

During the evil days of tyranny and persecution which followed this 
event, Locke found a safb and tranquil retreat in Holland, a country 
which had so long been the asylum of all who were brought, by the 
profession of free opinions on politics or religion, imder the frown of 
power; and he enjoyed the friendship and society of Le Clerc and 
many other illustrious exiles for conscience' sake. During this time 
Locke, whose bold expression of constitutional opinions and whose 
ardent attachment to free investigation must have made him peculiarly 
obnoxious to the bigotry of Oxford, was deprived of his Studentship 
at Christ-Church, and denounced as a factious and rebellious agitator, 
and as a dangerous heresiarch in philosophy. The Revolution of 16S8 
was the triumph of those free principles of which Locke had been the 
preacher and the martyr ; and he returned to England in the same fleet 
which conveyed Qiieen Mary from Holland to the country whose crown 
she had been called to share. From this period his career was emi- 
nently useful, active, and even brilliant. He was appointed a member 

A. D. 1632-1704.] JOHN LOCKE. 251 

of the Council of Trade, and in that capacity took a prominent part in 
carrying ovit Montague's difficult and most critical operation of calling 
in and reissuing the silver coinage — an operation of the most vital 
importance at the moment, and of which Macaulaj has given in his 
history a narrative of the most dramatic interest. After a short service 
Locke retired from public employment, and resided during the remainder 
of his life with his friend Sir F. Masham at Oates in Essex. Lady 
Masham, an accomplished and intellectual woman, was the daughter 
of the philosopher Cudworth, tenderly loved and respected by her illus- 
trious guest, who enjoyed under her roof the ease and tranquillity he 
had so nobly earned. Locke died in 1704; and his personal character 
seems to have been one of those which approach perfection as nearly 
as can be expected from our fallible and imperfect nature. On his 
return to England in 16S8 Locke became acquainted with the illustrious 
Newton, who, like himself, was employed in the public service ; but 
somewhere about 1692 certain untoward events, among which one of 
the principal was the unfortunate accidental burning of his papers, 
seem to have shaken, if not overthrown for a season the balance of the 
great philosopher's mind ; and his querulous and suspicious irritation 
appears to have vented itself in a most unfounded misunderstanding 
with Locke, whom he accuses of " embroiling him with women and 
other things." It is pleasing to think that Locke's conduct in the affair 
was delicate and forbearing, and that his manly expostulations and wise 
advice re-established a good understanding that was never again inter- 

§ 2. The writings of this excellent thinker are numerous, varied in 
subject, all eminently useful, and breathing a constant love of human- 
ity. In 16S9 were published the Letters on Tolcratio7i, originally com- 
posed in Latin, but immediately translated into French and English. 
The author goes over somewhat the same ground as had been occupied 
by Jeremy Taylor in his Liberty of Prophesying^ and by Milton in the 
immortal Areopagilica ; but Locke deduces his arguments less from 
scriptural and patristic authority than was done by the "former, and 
depends more upon close reasoning and considerations of practical 
utility than Milton. Of course in Locke's work there is no trace of 
that gorgeous and imposing eloquence which glows and blazes through 
the Speech on Unlicensed Printing ; but perhaps Locke's calm and 
logical proofs have not less powerfully contributed to fix the universal 
conviction as to the justice of his cause. ' The Treatise on Civil 
Government was undertaken to overthrow those slavish theories of 
Divine Right which were then so predominant among the extreme 
monarchical parties, and nowhere carried to such extravagance as in the 
University of Oxford. Locke's more special object was the refutation 
of Sir John Filmer's once famous book entitled Patriarcha, in which 
these principles were maintained in all their crudeness, and supported 
with some learning and much ill-employed ingenuity. Filmer main- 
tains that the monarchical form of government claims from the subject 
Sin unlimited obedience, as being the representative of the patriarchal 



authority in the primitive ages of mankind, while the patriarchal 
authority is in its turn the image of the power naturally possessed over 
his offspring by the parent, that again being the same in nature as the 
power of the Creator over his creature. The last-named of these being 
essentially infinite, it follows, according to Filmer, that all the otherp 
are so likewise. Locke combats and overthrows this monstrous theory, 
and seeks for the origin of government, and consequently the ground 
of authority on the one hand and obedience on the other, in the com- 
mon interest of society; showing that any form of polity which secures 
that interest may lawfully be acquiesced in, while none that does not 
secure it can claim any privilege of exemption from resistance. He in- 
vestigates the origin of society, and finds it based — as it can only be 
solidly based — upon the great and fertile principle of property and 
individual interest. 

§ 3. The greatest, most important, and most universally known of 
Locke's works is the Essay on the Human Understanding. In this 
book, which contains the reflections and researches of his whole life, 
and which was in the course of composition during eighteen years, 
Locke shows all his powers of close deduction and accurate observation. 
His object was to give a rational and clear account of the nature of the 
human mind, of the real character of our ideas, and of the mode in 
which they are presented to the consciousness. He attributes them all, 
whatever be their nature, to two, and only two, sources ; the first of 
these he calls Sensation, the second Reflection. He thus opposes the 
notion that there are any innate ideas, that is, ideas which have existed 
in the mind independently of impressions made upon the senses, or of 
the comparison, recollection, or combination of those impressions made 
by the judgment, the memory, or the imagination. Locke is eminently 
an inductive reasoner, and was the first to apply the method of experi- 
ment and observation to the obscure phenomena of the mental opera- 
tions ; and he is thus to be regarded as the most illustrious disciple of 
Bacon, whose mode of reasoning he adopted in a field of research till 
then considered as totally unamenable to the a posteriori logic. The 
most striking feature in this, as in all Locke's philosophical works, is the 
extreme clearness, plainness, and simplicity of his language, which is 
always such as to be intelligible to a plain understanding. He is the 
sworn foe of all technical and scientific terms, and his reasonings and 
illustrations are of the most familiar kind ; indeed he never scruples 
to sacrifice elegance to the great object of making himself understood. 
The following brief analysis of the work maybe found not unacceptable 
to the reader : — 

In Book I., consisting of four chapters, Locke inquires into the 
nature of the understanding, and demonstrates that there exist neither 
innate speculative nor innate practical principles. Book II., containing 
thirty-three chapters, is devoted to an examination into the nature of 
ideas, respectively treated as simple, as of solidity, of space, of dura- 
tion, of number, of infinity, and the like. He then considers the ideas 
of pleasure and of pain, of substance, of relations, as of cause and effect, 


A. D. 1632-1704.J JOHN LOCKE. 253 

and finall}' treats the important question of the association of ideas. 
Book in., divided into eleven chapters, is a most original and masterly 
investigation of the nature and properties of Language, of its relation 
to the ideas of which it is the vehicle, and of its abuses and imperfec- 
tions. This is, in the present day, when some parts of Locke's general 
theory are rd'garded as no longer tenable, the most valuable portion of 
the work. Book IV., including twenty-one chapters, discusses knowl- 
edge in general, its degrees, its extent, and its reality. The philosopher 
then proceeds to consider the natui-e of truth, of our knowledge of exist- 
ence, of our knowledge of the existence of a God, and of other beings. 
Then are investigated various important questions relating to judgment, 
probability, reason, faith, and the degrees of intellectual assent, and 
after some reflections on enthusiasm and on wrong assent, or error, 
Locke terminates with some valuable considerations on the Division 
of the Sciences. 

It was unavoidable that the portion of the work devoted to the inves- 
tigation of sensation should be more interesting and satisfactory than 
the portion treating of the obscure phenomena of reflection ; but how- 
ever we may dissent from particular details of Locke's theory, we can- 
not fail to render full justice to the inimitable clearness of his exposition, 
and to^he multitude of well-observed and well-arranged facts which 
form the groundwork of his arguments. 

§ 4. The Essay on Education has, like the book just examined, a 
practical tendency, and may be said to have mainly contributed to bring 
about that beneficial revolution which has taken place in the training of 
the young. Locke powerfully discountenances that exclusive attention 
to mere philology which prevailed in the education of the seventeenth 
century, and in no country more 'than in England. He advocates 
a more generous, liberal, and practical system, both in the choice 
of the subject-matter to be taught and in the mode of convening 
instruction. He is therefore in favor of making the pupil's own conscien- 
tiousness a substitute for that tyranny of force and authority which 
formerly disgraced our schools. Much of what is humane and philo- 
sophical in Rousseau's celebrated Emile is plainly borrowed from Locke, 
who is not responsible for the absurdities and extravagances ingrafted 
upon his plans by the Genevese theorist. Indeed both the educational 
and metaphysical works of Locke were unceremoniously ransacked by 
many French writers of the end of the seventeenth century, who were 
frequently not solicitous to point out the sources whence they drew 
their ideas. 

Besides the above works may be mentioned a treatise On the Reason- 
ableness of Christianity, in which the calm piety and benevolence of 
the sentiments form a triumphant refutation of those bigots who, like 
De Maistre, have accused Locke of irreligious and materialistic tenden- 
cies, and a small but admirable little book On the Conduct of the Under- 
sta7tding, which was not published until after the author's death. It 
contains a kind of manual of reflections upon all those natural defects 
or acquired evil habits of the mir.d, which unfit it for the taskof acquir- 


ing and retaining knowledge. It shows an acuteness and scope of 
observation not inferior to that exhibited in his great anterior work, 
together with the same calm but ardent spirit of humanity and benevo- 
lence which animates all the writings, as it did the whole life, of this 
great and excellent man. 

§5.1 have now to consider a series of excellent writers, who will 
always retain the place of classics in English prose, and who are equally 
worthy of admiration as Protestant theologians and as models of logical 
and persuasive eloquence. At the head of them stands Isaac Barrow 
(1630-1677), a man of almost universal acquirements, and whose ser- 
mons are still studied as the most powerful and majestic prose com- 
positions that the seventeenth century has produced. He was born in 
1630, educated at the Charter-house, whence he passed to Trinity Col- 
lege, Cambridge, of which he was one of the most illustrious alumni. 
He is said to have been, as a boy, remarkable for a violent and quarrel- 
some disposition, and to have been perpetually fighting with his school- 
fellows : of this temper nothing remained in after life save great energy 
and vigor of character, and a degree of personal courage of which he 
gave a striking proof in a sea-fight against an Algerine pirate, when 
returning from his travels in the East. At the University his studies 
seem to have embraced every branch of knowledge, not only Philology, 
of which he became so great a proficient as to have been first an unsuc- 
cessful and afterwards a successful candidate for the Greek professor- 
ship, but all the range of the mathematical sciences, together with 
Anatomy, Chemistry, and Botany. After some time he left Cambridge, 
and travelled through the greater part of Europe to the East, revisiting 
France and Italy on his way to Smyrna and Constantinople, and re- 
turning home by way of Germany and Holland in 1645. It was while 
sailing in the Mediterranean that he gave that proof of intrepidity to 
which I have alluded above. During his residence in the East he pur- 
sued his studies in Natural History, and obtained some acquaintance 
with the Oriental Languages, so useful in biblical research. On 
returning to Cambridge he was appointed Professor of Greek, to which 
he added the chair of Geometry in Gresham College, and afterwards 
the Lucasian professorship of Mathematics in the University. He was 
one of the ablest and profoundest mathematicians of his day, and culti- 
vated with distinguished success those same departments of science in 
which his illustrious pupil and successor, Newton, gained his undying 
glory — as Optics, Mechanics, and Astronomy. Indeed it has been the 
misfortune of Barrow that his mathematical fame, though brilliant and 
solid, has been eclipsed by the superior splendor of his great contem- 
porary's renown. Had he not lived at the sarnie time with Newton, and 
pursued nearly the same branches of investigation, the name of Bar- 
row would have stood among those of the foremost mathematicians of 
England. Newton was, indeed, a pupil of Barrow, who warmly appre- 
ciated and befriended him ; and it was to him that he resigned his 
Lucasian professorship. This transfer took place in 1669; before which 
period Barrow had taken orders, and devoted himself to that career cf 

A. D. 1630-1677.] ISAAC BARROW, 255 

theology and Christian eloquence in which he assuredlj- had no rival 
to fear. His sermons, many of which were preached in London, now 
became famous. He was named one of the king's chaplains, and in 
1672 was elected Master of Trinity College ; and having in his turn 
filled the high office of Vice-Chancellor of the University, he died of a 
fever at the early age of forty-six, in 1677. 

It is related that though Barrow's appearance in the pulpit was far 
from imposing at the first glance, his influence as an orator was irre- 
sistible ; and that notwithstanding the dignity and Demosthenic gran- 
deur of his eloquence, he at commencing suftered painfully from diffi- 
dence and timidity. His pulpit orations are not only filled and almost 
overladen with thought, so that even the most powerful intellect must 
use all its force and employ all its attention to follow his reasoning, 
but they were, as compositions, elaborated with the greatest care, and 
revised and rewritten with scrupulous anxiety before he was satisfied 
with his work. His sermons are numerous; and many of the most 
valuable of them form series, devoted to the exhaustive explanation 
of some particular department of religious knowledge or belief: thus 
there is an excellent series of discourses commenting upon the Lord's 
Prayer, which is anatomized, clause by clause; each article forming 
the text of a separate discourse. A similar set of sermons is devoted 
to the Creed, another to the Decalogue, another to the Sacraments, 
and so on. The predominant quality of Barrow's style is a weighty 
majesty of thought and diction ; every line that he produced bears a 
peculiar stamp of unconscious power — the vigor of a mind to which 
no subtlety was too arduous, no deduction too obscure. Whatever 
subject he approaches he seems to handle with a giant grasp, and to 
manage the most ponderous difficulties of theology with an heroic 
ease, like that of Homer's champions hurling stones that " nine degen- 
erate men " of modern times would fail to lift. Though full of truly Chris- 
tian and evangelical meekness, his writings have not that flush of 
beauty, that almost effeminate prodigality of images, that lingering 
and somewhat enervate melody that make the writings of Jeremy Tay- 
lor so poetical and so enchanting. Nor does he fall into Taylor's error 
of overloading his sermons with quotation. If Taylor be of the Corin- 
thian, Barrow is of the Doric order, not devoid of appropriate orna- 
ment, but chiefly distinguished for solidity and justness of proportion. 
If Taylor be the English Isocrates, Barrow is the Demosthenes of the 
Church. In some general features of style the reader will trace a 
resemblance between Barrow and Bossuet. It is true that the grand 
tone of denunciation is seldom heard from the lips of the Protestant 
divine; but both exhibit a similar loftiness of conception, a similar 
might and grasp of intellect, and a similar severity and purity of taste. 
There is perhaps no English prose writer, the study of whose work?, 
would be more invigorating to the mind, and more adapted to the for- 
mation of a pure taste, than Barrow; nor can there be a better proof 
that the most capable critics have agreed in this opinion, than the fact 
that Chatham recommended Barrow, as the finest model of eloquence, 


to his son, and the accomplished Landor has not hesitated to place him 
above all the greatest of the ancient thinkers and philosophers. " Plata 
and Xenophon," he makes one of his personages assert, " as men of 
thought and genius, might walk without brushing their skirts between 
these two covers," striking his hand on a volume of Barrow. 

§ 6. It will be necessary to pass rapidly over the names of a consid- 
erable number of able divines who adorn the Church and literature of 
their country during the period of which I am now treating. Their 
works are distinguished by merits varying both in kind and in degree ; 
but they are all characterized in common by a spirit which I may call 
Protestant, or rather Anglican ; a mixture of Christian fervor and 
extensive learning with a practical acquaintance with the requirements 
and dangers of real life — a spirit equally remote from the fanatical 
gloom and mysticism of the Calvinistic extreme, and the dogmatic 
pedantry of the Romish writers. The first I shall mention is John 
Pearson (1613-1686), originally Professor of Theology and Master of 
Trinity College, Cambridge, and afterwards Bishop of Chester. His 
most celebrated work is his Exposition of the Creed, which is still 
regarded as one of the most complete and searching treatises investi- 
gating the great fundamental principles of our faith. In our examina- 
tion of the English divines we shall see that they are pretty equally 
shared between our two great Universities. The theological and polit- 
ical tendencies which predominated at one or another period in these 
two learned bodies are faithfully reflected in the writings of their chil- 
dren ; for in that agitated epoch political and theological tendencies 
were intimately connected together, most of the great and exciting 
questions being tinged with a strong leaven of either spirit; but our 
Universities have no reason to be ashamed either of the learning or 
the conduct of their alumni. 

§ 7. Next after Barrow, John Tillotson (1630-1694) perhaps en- 
joys the highest and most durable popularity among the pulpit orators 
of this time : indeed the popularity of his sermons has extended to the 
present day, and they are frequently read by pious Churchmen even 
now. But Tillotson, though a sound and classical English prose- 
writer, was a man of a calibre far inferior to Barrow. He studied at 
Cambridge, where he at first rendered himself conspicuous for his 
decided Puritan sympathies. He, however, afterwards made no diffi- 
culty in conforming to the rules and discipline of the Anglican Church, 
and ultimately rose to the dignity of Archbishop of Canterbury. He 
was a person of easy, good-natured, and amiable character; and his 
change of party seems to have left no other eftect upon him than that 
of increasing his candor and indulgence for all shades of sincere opin- 
ion. In his conduct as a pastor and as a prelate he exhibited much 
zeal in correcting the abuses which had crept into the Church, and 
gave a notable example of liberal charity and episcopal virtue. He 
was renowned as a preacher; and his sermons, though falling far short 
of Barrow's in grasp of mind and vigor of expression, are precisely' of 
such a nature as is most likely to command popularity. They show an 

A.D. 1633-1716.] SOUTH. STILLINGFLEET. SPRAT. 257 

easy flow of style, sometimes, it is true, carrying too far the affectation 
of familiarity, in consequence of which the images and illustrations 
are occasionally trivial ; but there is a good deal of artifice, and even 
sophistry, in the reasoning, cunningly concealed under an air of candor 
which ne-v^r deserts Tillotson. His sentences, too, are often singularly 
unmusical, and are evidently made as colloquial in tone as possible. 
Tillotson often preached to the higher classes ; and in addressing such 
congregations he strove to conquer their fashionable indifference by 
adopting, as far as possible, the tone and air of a man of the world. 

§ 8. Robert South (1633-1716) enjoyed in his day the reputation 
of being the " wittiest Churchman " of the time. His character was 
far less deserving of admiration than that of Tillotson, as he exhibited 
extreme violence in attacking opinions from which he had apostatized. 
Like the Archbishop, he began his career as a partisan of Puritan doc- 
trines, and produced an extravagant poetical eulogy of Cromwell ; but 
at the University he imbibed the extreme Tory or monarchical opin- 
ions which had become prevalent at Oxford, where he filled the post 
of Public Orator, and indeed became one of the most characteristic 
specimens of that bigoted and vmreasonable class of Churchmen who 
were called Jiigkfliers in the party jargon of the day, and who went all 
lengths in maintaining the outi-ageous doctrines of passive obedience 
and non-resistance. He often preached before Charles II., and was 
much admired by the courtly audiences of those days for the animation, 
and even gayety, of his manner, and the pleasant stories and repartees 
which he sometimes introduced into his sermons. Many witty and 
>ocose anecdotes are related of him ; but in these cases it is necessary 
to accept such stories with some reserve, as there exists in the world 
a vast floating capital of such pleasantries, which are successively fa- 
thered upon any man who possesses a reputation for humor. The gross 
adulation with which he was not ashamed to address Charles II., and 
in which he lauded the virtues of Charles I., proves that South, with 
all his talents, has no claim to the character of a high-spirited man, 
particularly when we contrast the ^furious personal abuse he lavished 
on Cromwell with the extravagant praise that he had previously given 
him. His denunciations of the principles and convictions of his former 
party, too, are so unmeasured and illiberal as to destroy our belief in 
their sincerity, and we feel involuntarily constrained to attribute them 
to the got-up fervor of an interested convert. 

Edward Stillingfleet (1635-1699), Bishop of Worcester, is an- 
other name which must not be passed over without notice. He is prin- 
cipally remembered for his controversy with Locke, some of whose 
propositions he attacked, on the ground of their being, as he main- 
tained, hostile to the doctrine of the immateriality, and consequently 
of the immortality, of the soul. Locke triumphantly replied to these 
objections ; and the philosopher was so generally considered as having 
been victorious in this contest of argument over the divine, that the 
mortification of defeat is said to have shortened Stillingfleet's life. 

Thomas Sprat (1636-1713), Bishop of Rochester, was a man re- 
22* # 


nowned in his time for the brilliancy and variety of his talents. He 
was an ardent cultivator of physical science, which had just then made 
its first sudden bound forwards in that splendid career of observation 
and discovery which has ever since gone on progressing with such por- 
tentous rapidity. He was one of the members of the Ro^al Society, 
then recently founded, and to which the glory of English science owes 
so much. He was distinguished as a poet, though his writings in this 
department are now little read ; and as a biographer of poets, as the 
author of an excellent and interesting Life of Coivley. Besides these 
he was a theologian and preacher of no mean ability, and a very active 
contributor to the polemical and political literature of his day. Sprat 
was a member of the University of Oxford; and that his high reputa- 
tion for brilliancy of eloquence and ardor of imagination was not to be 
entirely attributed to the partiality of contemporary admiration, maj-^ 
be proved by the honorable terms in which his talents are spoken of by 
two such critics as Johnson and Macaulay. 

I shall conclude the present category of authors with the name of 
William Sherlock (1678-1761), Dean of St. Paul's, whose exposi- 
tions of scriptural doctrine have always been regarded with approval, 
and who in his own time was conspicuous as a polemic writer against 
the Dissenters. His best-known work is a Practical Discourse concern- 
i7ig Death. 

§ 9. Though the aim of these pages is to give an account of Litera- 
ture in its strict and proper sense, the subject of Science comes in 
contact with that object at so many points, that I should but ill perform 
my task without offering some notice of the writers who, though thej' 
devoted»their chief attention to physical researches, yet occupy a place 
among English authors. It is true that at the period of which we are 
treating, important scientific works were generally given to the world 
in Latin, that language being then the universal medium, the intellec- 
tual money, so to say, current among the learned in all parts of Europe ; 
but many of the great men who carried to so unequalled a height the 
glory of the human intellect and the honor of their native country, 
composed a portion of their works in their vernacular tongue, or at 
least published English versions of their learned labors, and thus de- 
serve some mention in their capacity of English writers. There are 
few episodes in the history of human knowledge more surprising than 
the sudden and dazzling progress made in the physical sciences towards 
the end of the seventeenth century. This progress is visible in Ger- 
many, in Holland, in France, and in England; in none of these nations, 
indeed, more so than in our own. It was just and natural that the 
vivifying effect produced by the writings and by the method of Bacon 
should be peculiarly powerful in that country which gave birth to the 
great reformer of philosophy; and there is no doubt that the develop- 
ment of free institutions and open discussion exercised a powerful 
influence in facilitating research, in promoting a spirit of inquiry, and 
in rendering possible the open expression of opinion. 

A very prominent part in the cultivation and dissemination of experi- 

A. D. 1614-1672.] WILKINS. GILBERT. HARVEY. 259 

mental research, in all branches of physics and natural history, was 
played by the Royal Society, that illustrious body which, originating 
in the meetings of a few learned and ingenious men at each other's 
houses, was incorporated by Charles II., in 1662, into the Society to 
the labors of which human knowledge owes so much. 

Among the founders of this corporation one of the most active was 
Dr. John Wilkins (1614-1672), Bishop of Chester, a most energetic 
and ingenious man, whose vivacious inventiveness sometimes bordered 
upon extravagance, but who rendered great services, both in his writings 
and his conversation, to the cause of science. He was essentially a 
projector, and at a period when the first wonderful results of the em- 
ployment of the experimental method had made even the calmest 
minds in some degree lose their balance, and become unable to distin- 
guish between what was practicable and what was visionary, we can 
hardly feel surprised that the ardor of his genius should have carried 
him beyond the bounds of good sense, so far as to seriously propose, 
among other Utopian schemes, a plan by which it would be possible to 
fly to the moon. Wilkins was a theological writer and a preacher 
of high reputation ; but his name is now chiefly associated with his 
projects and inventions, and in particular with the prominent part he 
took, together with Boyle and others, in the organization of the Royal 
Society.* He married the sister of Oliver Cromwell, and his step- 
daughter was married to Tillotson. "* 

§ 10. The progress of physical science had been very rapid before 
this time. The labors of William Gilbert (1540-1603), whose re- 
searches in magnetism laid the foundation for all future investigations, 
in that science, and the immortal discovery of William Harvey (1578- 
1658), the first demonstrator of the circulation of the blood, belong to 
an earlier period; but the concentration of the labors of many separate 
investigators upon one special branch of research was a result mainly 
to be attributed to the institution of our great scientific corporation. 
As a proof of this I may mention the contemporary, or nearly contem- 
porary labors of Newton in optics, astronomy, and celestial mechanics, 
and those of Flamsteed, Halley, and others, in the combined depart- 
ments of careful observation and the application of new and convenient 
mathematical formulas to the practical solution of problems in astron- 
omy and navigation ; while Boyle, embracing a wide extent and vast 
variety of research, particularly devoted himself to the investigation of 
chemical and pneumatic science; and Ray, Derham, Willoughby, and 
Sydenham brought valuable contributions to physiology, natural his- 
tory, and medicine. Most of these great men, independently of their 
purely scientific writings, which, as in the case of the immortal Prin- 
Upia of the most illustrious among them, were in Latin, contributed in 

* The chief works of Wilkins are: — 1. Disov^ry of a New World: or a 
discourse tending to prove that it is probabk that there may be another habitcihle 
World in the Moon; xoith a discourse concerning the possibility of a passage 
thither. Published in 1638. 2. An Essay towards a Real Character and a 
Philosophical Language, printed bi' order of the Royal Society in 1668. 


a greater or less proportion to the vernacular literature of their country. 
Thus Newton wrote, in English, upon the Prophecies, and other subjects 
connected with biblical knowledge ; and Bojle enjoyed a high reputa* 
tion for his moral and religious writings. It is remarkable and consol- 
ing to see with what unanimous consent these illustrious philosophers, 
all men of extraordinary acumen and caution, and all accustomed, from 
the nature of their pursuits, to take nothing for granted, to weigh and 
balance evidence with the severest exactness, agreed in the intensity of 
their religious convictions. Those habits of physical investigation, 
which are so often ignorantly accused of being unfavorable to the habit 
of belief, seem to have led the most powerful and inquiring minds only 
the more irresistibly to a firm conviction of the truths of revealed 

§ 11. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was born in 1642, of a respec- 
table but not opulent family, at Woolsthorpe in Lincolnshire. From 
his earliest boyhood he showed the greatest taste and aptitude for 
mechanical invention, and entering the University of Cambridge, in 
1660, he made such rapid progress in mathematical studies that in nine 
years Barrow resigned in his favor the Lucasian professorship. The 
greater part of Newton's life was passed within the quiet walls of Trin- 
ity, of which College he is the most glorious ornament; and it was 
here that he elaborated those admirable discoveries and demonstrations 
in Mechanics, Astronomy, and Optics which have placed his name in 
the very foremost rank of the benefactors of mankind. He sat in more 
than one parliament as member for his university; but he appears to 
have been of too reserved and retiring a character to take an active 
part in political discussion : he was appointed Master of the Mint in 
1695, and presided over that establishment at the critical period of 
Montagu's bold recall and reissue of the specie. It is delightful to see 
with what simplicity and readiness this illustrious philosopher aban- 
doned all those sublime researches in which he stands almost alone 
among mankind, and devoted all his energy and attention to the public 
duties that had been committed to his charge. He even writes with a 
kind of pettish querulousness to upbraid friends who had consulted him 
about " mathematical things," as he calls them, when he was entirely 
occupied with the public service. In 1703 he was made president of 
the Royal Society, and knighted two years afterwards by Qiieen Anne. 
He died in 1727. His character, the only defects of which appear to 
have been a somewhat cold and suspicious temper, was the type of 
those virtues which ought to distinguish the scholar, the philosopher, 
and the patriot. His modesty was as great as his genius, and he inva- 
riably ascribed the attainment of his discoveries rather to patient atten- 
tion than to any unusual capacity of intellect. His English writings, 
which are chiefly discourses upon the prophecies and chronology of the 
Scriptures, are composed in a manly, plain, and unaffected style, and 
breathe an intense spirit of piety, though his opinions seem to have in 
some measure inclined towards the Unitarian type of theology. His 
glory, however, will always mainly rest upon his purely scientific works, 

A. D. 1628-1715-] ^4^- BURNET. 261 

the chief of which are so well known that it is almost superfluous to 
enumerate them — the Philosophice Naturalis Principia Mathematica 
and the invaluable treatise on Optics, of which latter science he may 
be said to have first laid the foundation. 

§ 12. John Ray (1628- 1705), together with Derham and Willoughbj, 
combined the descriptive department of Natural History with moral 
and religious eloquence of a high order ; they seem never to be weary 
of proclaiming the wisdom and goodness of that Providence whose 
works they had so attentively studied. Ray was the first who elevated 
Natural History to the rank of a science. Robert Boyle (1627-1691) 
was an able writer as well as a distinguished philosopher. "No Eng- 
lishman of the seventeenth century, after Lord Bacon," observes Mr. 
Hallam, "raised to himself so high a reputation in experimental phi- 
losophy as Robert Bojde : it has even been remarked that he was born 
in the year of Bacon's death, as the person destined by nature to suc- 
ceed him — a eulogy which would be extravagant if it implied any 
parallel between the genius of the two, but hardly so if we look on 
Boyle as the most faithful, the most patient, the most successful disciple 
who carried forward the experimental philosophy of Bacon. His works 
occupy six large volumes in quarto. They may be divided into theo- 
logical or metaphysical anc^hysical or experimental. The metaphys- 
ical treatises — t? use that word in a large sense — of Boyle, or rather 
those concerning Natural Theology, are very perspicuous, very free 
from system, and such as bespeak an independent lover of truth. His 
Disquisition on Final Causes was a well-timed vindication of that 
palmary argument against the paradox of the Cartesians, who had 
denied the validity of an inference from the manifest adaptation of 
means to ends in the universe to an intelligent Providence. Boyle 
takes a more philosophic view of the principle of final causes than 
had been found in many theologians, who weakened the argument 
itself by the presumptuous hypothesis that man was the sole object of 
Providence in the creation. His greater knowledge of physiology led 
him to perceive that there are both animal and what he calls cosmical 
ends in which man has no concern." 

One of the most extraordinary writers of this period — at least in a 
purely literary sense — was Thomas Burnet (1635-1715), Master of 
the Charter-house, author of the eloquent and poetic declamation Tal- 
luris Theoria Sacra, giving a hypothetical account of the causes which 
produced the various irregularities and undulations which we see in 
the earth's surface. These he attributes to the action of fire and water, 
and in language of indescribable picturesqueness he first describes the 
convulsions and cataclysms which have given to our earth its present 
form, and then goes on to picture the final destruction that is awaiting 
our globe in the mysterious abysses of the future. The geological and 
physical theories of Burnet are fantastic in the extreme ; but the pic- 
tures which he has drawn of the devastation caused by the great 
unbridled powers of Nature are grand and magnificent, and give Bur- 
net a claim to be placed among the most eloquent and poetical of prose- 


writers. In richness of fancy and melody of language he is no unwor- 
thy rival of Jeremy Taylor, with whose noble description of the fina 
destruction of the earth Burnet's sublime painting will bear a com- 

§ 13. This writer must not be confounded with Gilbert Burnet 
(1643-1715), born in Edinburgh, in 1643, and who was one of the most 
active politicians and divines during the period embracing the reigns 
of Charles II., James II., and the accession of William of Orange. 
By birth and personal predilections he occupies a middle space between 
the extreme Episcopalian and Presbyterian parties, and though a man 
of ardent and busy character, he was possessed of rare tolerance and 
candor. He was much celebrated for his talents as an extempore 
preacher, and was the author of a very large number of theological 
and political writings. Among these his History of the Reformation 
is still considered as one of the most valuable accounts of that impor- 
tant revolution. The first volume of this was published in 1679, ^"<^ 
the work was afterwards completed by the author. He also gave to 
the world an account of the Life a?td Death of the witty and infamous 
Rochester, whose last moments he attended as a religious adviser, and 
whom his pious arguments recalled to a sense of repentance. He at 
one time enjoyed the favor of Charles II., -but soon forfeited it by the 
boldness of his remonstrances against the profligacy of the king and 
by his defence of Lord William Russell, whose execution was one of 
the great political crimes of that reign. Burnet also published an 
Expositio7i of the XXXIX Articles. On falling into disgrace at court 
he travelled on the Continent, and afterwards attached himself closely 
to the service of William of Orange at the Hague, where he became 
the religious adviser of the Princess Mary, afterwards Qi_ieen. At the 
Revolution Burnet accompanied the deliverer on his expedition to Eng- 
land, took a very active part in controversy and political negotiation, 
and was raised to the Bishopric of Salisbury, in which function he gave 
a noble example of the zeal, tolerance, and humanity which ought to 
be the chief virtues of a Christian pastor. He died in 1715, leaving 
the MS. of his most important work, the History of My Own Times, 
which he directed to be published after the lapse of six years. This 
work, consisting of Memoirs of the important transactions of which 
Burnet had been contemporary, is of a similar nature and not inferior 
value to Clarendon's, which represents the events of English history 
from a nearly opposite point of view. Burnet is minute, familiar, and 
gossiping, but lively and trustworthy in the main as to facts; and no 
one who desires to make acquaintance with a very critical and agitated 
period of our annals can dispense with the mateiials he has accumu- 
lated. It is from him that we learn the true greatness and energy of 
William's character, and the milder virtues of his queen ; and the very 
ardor of Burnet's predilections gives a vivacity and a value to his pic- 
tures of men and things. 





Heney Moke (1614-1687), known by the name 
of the Platonist, spent his whole life at Cambridge 
engaged in metaphysical and philosophical studies. 
He is a writer of genius and power, but he adopted 
the mystical views not only of the later Platonists, 
but even of the cabalistic writers. His most im- 
portant works are The Mu»tery of Godliness, The 
ilystei-y of Iniquity, and A Discourse on the Immor- 
tality of the Soul. He also wrote a volume of Philo- 
sophical Foems. 

Kali'II Cudwoeth (1617-1688), a contemporary 
of More at Cambridge, and Regius Professor of 
Divinity at that University, is a writer of still greater 
power than INIore. In 1678 Cudworth published 
the first part of his great work, entitled The True 
Intellectual Syftem of the Universe. " Cudworth," 
observes Mr. Hallam, " was one of those whom 
Hobbes had roused by the atheistic and immoral 
theories of the Leviathan ; nor did any antagonist 
perhaps of that philosopher bring a more vigorous 
understanding to the combat. This understanding 
was not so much obstructed in its own exercise by 
a vast erudition, as it is sometimes concealed bj' it 
from the reader. Cudworth hag passed mor6 for a 
recorder of ancient philosophy, than for one who 
might stand in a respectable class among philoso- 
phers; and his work, though long, being unfinished, 
as well as full of digression, its object has not been 
fully apprehended. This object was to establish the 
liberty of human actions against the fatalists. Of 
these he lays it down that there are three kinds : the 
first atheistic; the second admitting a Deity, but 
one acting necessarily and without moral perfec- 
tions; the third granting the moral attributes of 
God, but asserting all human actions to be governed 
by necessary laws which he has ordained. The 
first book of the Intellectual System, which alone is 
extant, relates wholly to the proof of the existence 
of a Deity against the atheistic fatalists, his moral 
nature being rarely or never touched; so that the 
greater and more interesting part of the work, for 
the sake of which the author projected it, is wholly 
wanting, unless we take for fragments of it some 
writings of the autlior preserved in the British 

Museum Cudworth is too credulous and 

uncritical about ancient writings, defending all as 
genuine, even where his own age had been sceptical. 
His terminology is stiflF and pedantic, as is the case 
with all our older metaphysicians, abounding in 
words which the English language has not recog- 
nized. He is full of the ancients, but rarely quotes 
the schoolmen. Hobbes is the adversarj' with whom 
he most grapples ; the materialism, the resolving all 
ideas into sensation, the low morality of that writer, 
were obnoxious to the animadversion of so strenu- 
ous an advocate of a more elevated philosophy. In 
Bome respects Cudworth has, as I conceive, much 
the advantage; iu others, he will gca«rally be 

thought by our metaphysicians to want precision 
and logical reasoning; and upon the whole we must 
rank him, in philosophical acumen, far below 
Hobbes, Malebranche, and Locke, but also far 
above any mere Aristotelians or retailers of Scotus 
and Aquinas." He was, however, most unfairly 
accused of favoring the atheists, because ne fairly 
stated their arguments. He left an only daughter, 
who married Sir Francis Masham, and who is 
known as the friend of Locke (see p. 251). 

RiCHAED CUMBEKLAND (1632-1718), made 
Bishop of Peterborough by William III., Is best 
known by his Latin work, De Lefiihus Natures 
Disquisitio Philosophica, puhlishedin 1672, in oppo- 
sition to the philosophical principles of Hobbes. 
Cumberland was also the author of an Essay on 
Jewish Weights and Measures. 

Robert Leiquton (1613-1684), Archbishop of 
Glasgow, whose commentary on the First Epistle of 
St. Peter may be regarded as a classic, both for 
profoundness of thought and felicity of expression. 
Attention has been drawn to it in modern times by 
Coleridge in his " Aids to Reflection." 

THEOPIIILU8 Gale (1628-1678), Fellow of Mag- 
dalen College, Oxford, but ejected at the Restora- 
tion, is known by a learned work, called The Court 
of the Gentiles, published between 1669 and 1677, in 
which he attempts to prove that all heathen philoso- 
phy was borrowed from the Scriptures, or at least 
from the Jews. 

Geoege Bull (16.34-1710), Bishop of St. David's, 
a great opponent of the Augustinian theology, and 
still regarded as one of the pillars of the Anglican 
Church. In his Hannonia Apostolica, published in 
1669, he maintains that we are to interpret St. Paul 
by St. James, and not St. James by St. Paul, because 
St. James was the latest authority. Another of Bull's 
celebrated works was the Defensio Fidei A'icevss 
published in 1685, for which he received the thanks 
of an assembly of the French clergy, through the 
influence of Bossuet. 

John Owen (1616-1683), Vice-Chancellor of the 
University of Oxford under Cromwell, and one of 
the most eminent of the Independent divines, pub- 
lished alargenumberoftheologicalworks, of which 
An Exposition on the Epistle to the Hebrews is the 
best known. Owen's style is dull, heavy, and con- 

John Howe (1630-1705), chaplain to Cromwell, 
and also an eminent Independent divine, wrote 
various theological works, the style of which is far 
superior to Owen's. 

John Flavel (1627-1691), a Nonconformist 
divine at Dartmouth, whose theological writings 
are chiefly devotional, characterized by much fer- 
vor, and of the Calvinistic theology. They are still 
popular with persons of that school. 

Matthew Heney (1662-1714), son of Philip 
Henry, and like his father an eminent Nonconform- 
ist divine. He is best know I by his Commentary 



on the Bible, written in a perspicuous and pointed 

EnMTJND Calamy (1600-1666), originally a cler- 
gynmn of tlie Church of England, but afterwards a 
dissenting minister in London. He took part in the 
Smectymnuf, an attack on Episcopacy. His ser- 
mons are practical, though now and then we find 
political feelings overmastering the cabner style of 
the divine. 

THOMAS Ellwood ( 1639-1713) , a pupil of Milton, 
and when the great poet became blind, he read to 
him. He turned Quaker, and labored diligently to 
extend the principles of his Society. He wrote an 
autobiography and several polemical tracts, such as 
that against Tithes, 1682, and on the Histories of the 
Old and New Testament, 1705-9. 

Dk. William Lowth (1661-1732), a celebrated 
classic and theologian, prebend of Winchester, and 
rector of Buriton. His writings on the Inspiration 
of the Old and New Testaments, and Commentaries, 
•were valuable additions to the theology of the age. 
He was the father of the well-known Bishop Lowth. 

Scottish DrvnrES. 

S AMTIEl, Rttth eefoed ( 1600-1661) . 

Thomas Halybukton (1674-1712). 

Thomas Boston (1676-1732). 

In this age occurred "the great Marrow con- 
troversy," occasioned by a book of Edward Fisher, 
a Calvinistic minister in Wales, entitled The Mar- 
row of Modern Divinity, 1645. This work was 
■warmly received by a section of the church, while 
another portion rejected it. It gave rise to much 
disturbance and contest. 

The tliree writers mentioned above, who took an 
active part in this controversy, were severe and 
sombre in their divinity ; but there was a massive- 
ness of thought and a richness of expression which 
Btill make this age one of the most remarkable and 
valuable in the history of Christian theology. 


BtJLSTEODE Whttelocke (1605-1676), an able 

Lawyer, was sent by Cromwell as ambassador to 

Sweden, and held other high offices under the Pro- 
tector. He wrote Memorials of English Affairs, 
from the beginning of the reign of Charles I. to the 
Restoration, which work was first published in 1682. 

Henky Nevile (1020-1694), the friend of Har- 
rington, the author of the Oceana, and a member 
of the republican party, published in 1681 an able 
work, entitled Plato Redivivus, or a Dialogue con- 
cerning Government. The dialogue is between a 
Venetian nobleman, an English doctor (supposed 
to be Harvey), and an English gentleman. Though 
formerly belonging to the republican party, Nevile 
in this work advocates a monarchical form of gov- 

SiE William Dugpale (1605-1686), a learned 
antiquary, who published the Baronage of Eng- 
land, The Antiquities of Warwickshire Illustrated, 
A History of St. Pauls Cathedral, &c. 

EliaS Ashmole (1617-1692), also a learned anti- 
quary, who married the daughter of Sir William 
Dugdale, published in 1672 The Institutions, Laws, 
and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the 
Garter. He wrote numerous other works, and was 
the founder of the Musemn at Oxford which still 
bears his name. 

Anthony Wood (1632-1695), published in 1691 
his Athense Oxonienses, an account of the eminent 
men educated at Oxford. 

John Aubrey (1626-1697) collected materials for 
many works, but published only one, in 1696, enti- 
tled Miscellanies, containing an account of popular 
superstitions, from which it appears that Aubrey 
was very credulous. 

SiK Matthew Hale (1609-1676), the celebrated 
Chief-Justice of the King's Bench in the reign of 
Charles n., wrote several works, many of them of a 
moral and religious character, of which his Con- 
templations, Moral and Divine, are the best known. 

Sib George Mackenzie (1636-1691), Lord- 
Advocate in the reigns of Charles II. and James II., 
was well acquainted with polite literature, but was 
held in execration by the Covenanters for his en- 
forcement of the cruel laws against them. His 
prose is better than his verse, and his Moral Essaya 
may still be read with pleasure. 

A. D. 16SS-1744.] ALEXANDER POPE. 2G5 



§ 1 . Alexander Pope : his early life. Publication of his Pastorals^ Essay on 
Criticism, Rape of the Lock, Windsor Forest. Versions from Cliauccr. 
^ 2. Translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. ^ 3. Publication of the Elegy 07i 
on Unfortunate Lady, the Epistle from Sappho to Phaon, the Epistle of Eloisa 
to Abelard. His life at Twickenham. His edition of Shakspeare. Collection 
of Miscellanies. ^ 4. Publication of the Diinciad, of his Epistles, Essay on 
Man, and Imitations of Horace. § 5. His death, character, and other works. 
S 6. Criticism of the Rajje of the Lock. ^ 1. Jonathan Swift : his early 
life. His connection with Sir William Temple. § 8. Settles in Ireland. His 
Tale of a Tub. ^ 9. Returns to England and joins the Tories. Made Dean 
of St. Patrick's, Dublin. § 10. Takes up his residence in Ireland. Drapier's 
Lettirs. Travels of GulUver. His Death. § 11. His relation to Stella and 
Vanessa. § 12. Criticism of the Travels of Gulliver. § 13. Of the Tale of a 
Tub, and other works. Comparison between Swift, Rabelais, and Voltaire. 
§ 14. Dr. John Arbuthnot. His History of John Bull. § 15. Matthew 
Prior. § 16. John Gay. The Beggar's Opera. § 17. Garth, Parneli^j 
and TiCKELL. S 18. Edward Young. The Night Thoughts. § 19. Allan 

§ 1. Sense, vigor, harmony, and a kind of careless yet majestic regu- 
larity were the characteristics of that powerful school of poetry which 
was introduced into England at the Restoration, and of which Dryden is 
the most eminent type. These qualities were, in the so-called Augustan 
reign of Queen Anne, succeeded by a still higher polish, and an elegance 
sometimes degenerating into effeminacy. The slender and somewhat 
enervate grace of the Corinthian order succeeds the more masculine 
beauties of the Ionic. Far above all the poets of this epoch shines the 
brilliant name of Alexander Pope (16S8-1744). He was born in 
London of a respectable Catholic family of good descent, in 1688. His 
father had been engaged in trade as a linen-draper, and retired to a 
pleasant country house at Benfield, near Windsor, so that the childish 
imagination of the future poet imbibed impressions of rural beauty 
from the lovely scenery of the Forest. The boy was of almost dwarfish 
stature, and so deformed that his after life was '* one long disease," 
which not only precluded the possibility of his embracing any active 
profession, but could be preserved only by constant care and nursing. 
Like many other deformed and diminutive persons, he possessed a sin- 
gularly intellectual and expressive countenance, and his eyes were 
remarkable for their tenderness and fire. He exhibited an extraordinary 
precocity of intellect, and the literary ambition by which he was devoured 
even from his early boyhood at once pointed out*the poetical career to 
which he was destined. He has said of himself, " I lisped in numbers, 


for the numbers came," and the earliest attempts at poetry were made 
by him when he had hardly emerged from the nursery. His father had 
acquired a competent fortune, which enabled the boy poet to indulge 
that taste for study and poetical reading which continued to be the 
passion of his life. At the age of twelve he was so struck with reverence 
for the glory of Dryden, that he is said to have persuaded a friend to 
accompany him to Will's Coffee-house, which the glorious veteran was 
in the habit of frequenting, and to obtain a glance of the illustrious 
patriarch, whose death took place in that year. At sixteen he com- 
menced his literary career by composing a collection of Pastorals and 
by translating portions of Statius, which were published in 1709. From" 
this period his activity was unremitting, and an uninterrupted succes- 
sion of works, equally varied in their subjects and exquisite in their 
finish, placed him at the head of the poets of his age. His Essay on 
Criticism, published in 171 1, and highly praised by Addison, was 
perhaps the first poem that fixed his reputation, and gave him a fore- 
taste of that immense popularity which he enjoyed during his whole 
life. The precepts of this work are the same as those inculcated by 
Horace, and repeated by Boileau, and all the poets and critics of the 
classical school, but they are expressed by Pope with such a union of 
force and delicacy, such ripeness of judgment and such grace of expres- 
sion and melody of verse, that the poem appears less like the effort of 
a young writer than the result of consummate experience and practice 
in composition. It is to this period of Pope's career that we must 
ascribe the conception and first sketch of the most original and charm- 
ing production not only of Pope-, but of the century in which he lived ; 
a perfect gem, or masterpiece, equally felicitious in its plan and execu- 
tion ; one of those happy thoughts that are to be attributed half to 
genius and half to rare and favorable accident. This was the mock- 
heroic poem The Ru'/>e of the Lock, justly described by Addison as 
'■'■ merum sal, a delicious little thing," to which I shall presently recur 
and analyze in detail. This poem is the victorious rival of the Lutrin 
and of Vert-vert, and is indeed incomparably superior to every heroic 
comic composition that the world has hitherto seen. In 1713 appeared 
his pastoral eclogues entitled Windsor Forest, in which beauty of versifi- 
cation and neatness of diction do all they can to compensate for the 
r.bsence of that deep feeling for nature which the poetry of the eigh- 
teenth century did not possess. The plan of this woik is principally 
borrowed from Denham's Cooper's Hill, but Pope has hardly any pas- 
sage to be compared with those few but unequalled lii es which have 
preserved the vitality of the latter work. The freque it descriptions 
introduced by Pope, though beautiful in their way, have the same arti- 
ficial air which forms so fatal a defect in almost all pastoral poetry, 
from Virgil to Sannazzaro. In 1715 Pope published several modernized 
versions from Chaucer, as if he were desirous in all things to parallel 
his great master Dryden. He produced the Temple of Fame, and the- 
not over moral story of January and May, which is in substance the 
Merchant's Tale of the great patriarch of our literature. 

A. D. 168S-1744.] ALEXANDER POPE. 267 

§ 2. At this time, too, Pope undertook the laborious enterprise of 
translating into English verse the Iliad and the Odyssey. The work 
was to be published by subscription, and Pope was at first reduced 
almost to despair when brought face to face with the vastness of his 
undertaking: but with practice came facility, and the whole of the Iliad 
was successfully given to the world by the year 1720, and excited a fren- 
zy of admiration which found a vent in some laudatory epigrams which 
by the very extravagance of their eulogy of Pope only prove how little 
the writers understood of Homer. In a pecuniary sense this was a 
most successful venture : Pope received for his labor upwards of 3200/., 
and laid the foundation of that competence which he enjoyed with good 
sense and moderation. The Odyssey did not appear till five years later : 
and of this he himself translated only twelve of the twenty-four books, 
employing for the remaining half the assistance of the respectable con- 
temporary poets William Broome (1689-1745) and Elijah Fenton 
(1683-1730), to whom he of course paid a proportionable share of the 
proceeds. Pope selected for the form of his version that rhymed deca- 
sjllable verse of which he was so consummate a master, but which, how- 
ever beautiful as a medium for appropriate subjects, is quite unfitted, 
from the regularity of its pauses, the neatness of its structure, and the 
irresistible tendency to terminate the sense with the couplet, to repro- 
duce in English the solemn, ever-varied, resounding swell of the bil- 
low-like hexameter of Homer. The old Ionian bard is stripped of his 
flowing chlamys and his fillets, and imprisoned in the high-heeled shoes, 
the laced velvet aaat and flowing periwig, of the eighteenth century. 
Mechanically, indeed, Pope's translation is far from unfaithful ; but in 
the spirit, the atmosphere, so to saj^ of the original, the ballad-like ver- 
sion of Chapman is far superior. Bentley's criticism is, after all, the 
best and most comprehensive that has yet been made on this work : " It 
is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer." It will 
nevertheless be always regarded as a noble monument of our national 
literature ; and it is difficult to imagine how many readers, to whom the 
original Greek was inaccessible, have filled their minds with the bril- 
liant though refracted eff'ulgence of the great Sun of Poetry, by studying 
the graceful couplets of Pope. It is unfortunate that in their selec- 
tion of the two great epic writers as subjects of translation, Dryden and 
Pope had not exchanged parts : Dryden, though perhaps incapable of 
reproducing the wonderful freshness and grandeur of Homer, still pos- 
sessed most of the Homeric quality of fire and animation ; while Pope, 
in whom consummate grace and finish is the prevailing merit, would 
have far more successfully reproduced the unsurpassed dignity, the 
chastened majesty, of Virgil. 

§ 3. About 1717 Pope probably composed the Elegy on an U7ifortu- 
nate Lady, the Epistle from Sappho to P/iaon, borrowed from the 
Heroidcs of Ovid, and the Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard, a poem on a 
similar plan, but taking its subject from the romantic and touching 
Btory of mediaeval times. These works are all artificial in their ar- 
rangement, and in some degree also in their diction ; but the passion 


they express is so intense, and illustrated with such varied, pathetic, 
and beautiful imagery, that they will ever be considered masterpieces. 
The svibject of the first is very obscure, but it seems to have been de- 
rived from a real tale of disappointed love and suicide ; though many 
passages in the Elegy are of consummate beauty, the JSloi'sa, as a whole, 
is a finer and more sustained composition. The intense glow of unhap- 
py passion lights up the gloom and horror of the cloister with a lurid 
splendor, like that of the fabled lamps in sepulchres. During this part 
of his life Pope was living, with his father and mother, to whom he 
always showed the tenderest and most dutiful affection, at Chiswick; 
but on the death of the former parent he removed with his mother to a 
villa he had purchased at Twickenham, on a most beautiful spot on tne 
banks of the Thames. Here he passed the remainder of his life, in 
easy, if not opulent circumstances; his taste for gardening, and his 
grotto and quincunxes, in which he delighted, amused his leisure, and 
he lived in familiar intercourse with almost all the most illustrious 
statesmen, orators, and men of letters of his day — Swift, Atterbury, 
Addison, Bolingbroke, Prior, Gay, and Arbuthnot. He was perhaps 
a little too fond of talking of his own independence, and alluding, with 
affected indifference, to the great and titled guests whom he received, 
and like most men who live in a narrow clique, was very apt to treat all 
those who were outside the charmed bounds as wretches deserving only 
of contempt, and as if' all virtue, wit, and honor were exclusively con- 
fined to his own set. In 1725 he published an Edition of Shakspcare 
in six volumes, in the compilation of which he exhibited a deficiency in 
that peculiar kind of knowledge which is absolutely indispensable to 
the commentator on an old author. His work was judged by the public 
to be far inferior to the contemporary edition of Theobald's, who, 
though destitute of poetic genius, possessed more critical discernment, 
and produced a much more valuable result. For this Pope's jealous envy 
could never forgive Theobald, and we shall see by and by how savagely 
he revenged himself. During the three following years he was engaged, 
together with Swift and Arbuthnot, in composing that famous collec- 
tion of Miscellanies., to which each of the friends contributed. . The 
principal project of the fellow-laborers was the extensive satire on the 
abuses of learning and the extravagances of philosophy, entitled Me- 
moirs of Martinus Scriblerus. This was intended to be for literature 
something like what Don Qviixote was for chivalry : but the idea, though 
happily enough carried out in some of its parts by the festive and hu- 
morous wit of Arbuthnot, was not a very happy one. The contributors, 
and chiefly Pope, whose admirable satiric genius instantly deserted him 
when he abandoned verse for prose, often descend to personality and 
buffoonery, and perhaps, with the exception of Arbuthnot's inimitable 
burlesque History of John Bull, the prose portions of the Miscellanies 
are hardly worthy of the fame of their authors. Pope, however, sup- 
plied to this publication some of the finest and most brilliant of his 
poetical pieces, particularly in the department of satire. 

§ 4. The brilliant success of Pope, his steady popularity, the tinge 

A. D. 1688-1744.] ALEXANDER POPE. 269 

of vanity and malignity in his disposition, and above all the supercili- 
ous tone in which he speaks of the struggles of literary existence, then 
at a very low ebb of social respectabilitj', all conspired to raise around 
him a swarm of enemies, animated alike by envy and revenge. He 
had been frequently engaged in squabbles, in some of which his con- 
duct was far from estimable, and he determined to inflict upon his 
innumerable enemies, the gnats and mosquitos of the press, a severe 
and memorable castigation. Under the mask of zeal for reason and 
good taste he could indulge to the extreme the pleasure of chastising 
men whom he feared or hated : and in many cases there is no reason 
to doubt that he was in good faith when he identified the expression of 
personal spite with the indignant voice of taste and morality. He com- 
posed the satire of the Dunciad, the primary idea of which may have 
been suggested by Drj^den's Mac-Flecknoe, but which is incomparably 
the fiercest, most sweeping, and most powerful literary satire that exists 
in the whole range of literature. In it he flays and boils and roasts 
and dismembers the miserable scribblers he attacks, with the ferocity 
of a Mohock execution, and with more than the ingenuity of Orcagna's 
pictures of the Last Judgment. Most of the persons attacked are so 
obscure that their names are now rescued from oblivion by being em- 
balmed in Pope's satire, like worthless rubbish preserved in the lava of 
a volcano : but in the latter part of the poem, and particularly in the 
portion added in the editions of 1742 and 1743, the poet has given a 
sketch of the gradual decline and corruption of taste and learning 
in Europe, which is one of the noblest outbursts of his genius. The 
plot of the poem — the Iliad of the Dunces — is not very ingenious; 
and was borrowed from Dryden. Pope supposes that the throne of 
Dulness is left vacant hy the death of Shadwell, and that the various 
aspirants to " that bad eminence " engage iw a series of trials, like the 
Olympic Games of old, to determine who shall inherit it. In the 
original form of the poem, as it appeared in 172S and 1729, the palm 
of pedantry and stupidity was given to Theobald, Pope's successful 
rival in commenting Shakspeare. In the new edition of 1743, published 
just before the poet's death, Theobald is degraded from the throne, 
and the crown is given to Colley Gibber, an actor, manager, and 
dramatic author of the time, and who, whatever were his vices and 
frivolity, certainly was in no sense an appropriate King of the Dunces. 
But in this, as in numberless other instances. Pope's bitterness of 
enmity entirely ran away with his judgment. The poem is an ad- 
mirable — almost a fearful — example of the highest genius applied to 
the most selfish of ends — the lightning of genius, under the guise of 
chastising bad literature, burning, searing, and devouring the victims 
of self-love. 

In the four years extending from 1731 to 1735 Pope was engaged in 
the composition of his Epistles^ addres. ed to Burlington, Gobham, Ar- 
buthnot, Bathurst, and other distinguished men. These poems, half 
eatirical and half familiar, were in their manner a reproduction of the 
charming productions of Horace. Indeed Pope may not unjustly be 


'called the English Horace, as Drjden is the English Juvenal. With 
less good-humored epicurean philosophy than the great Augustan sat- 
irist, Pope possesses a finer and more elaborate poetical spirit; in good 
sense, clearness, and neatness of diction it is difficult to give the palm 
of superiority. At the same period was produced the Essay on Man, in 
four epistles, addressed to Bolingbroke — a work of more pretension, 
and aiming at the illustration of important ethical and metaphysical 
principles. In the First Epistle Man is regarded in his relation to the 
Universe, in the Second in his relation to himself, in the Third in his 
relation to society, and in the Fourth with respect to his ideas of and 
pursuit after happiness. In the whole poem the exquisite neatness and 
concision of the language, the unvarying melody of the verse, and the 
beauty and felicity of the illustrations, are far more perceptible than 
the orignality or even soundness of the theory : but the Essay is an 
incomparable example of the highest skill in the art of so treating an 
abstract philosophical subject as to render it neither dry nor unpoetical. 
I have now arrived nearly at the end of Pope's well-filled and brilliant 
literary life. The death of his mother, of whose "declining age" he 
had " rocked the cradle " with the tenderest assiduity, the loss of many 
friends, among whom was Swift, now sinking into hopeless idiocy, the 

'increased complication of his own maladies, to whose number asthma 
and dropsy were now added — all these causes threw a gloom over his 
declining years and warned him of his approaching end. He gave to 
the world his highly-finished and brilliant Imitations of Horace, in 
which, like so many previous writers of his own and other countries, 
from Bishop Hall down to Boileau, he adapted the topics of the Roman 
satirist to the persons and vices of modern times. 

§ 5. On the 30th of May, 1744, this great poet died, unquestionably 
the most illustrious writer of his age, hardly if at all inferior to Swift 
in the vigor, tlie perfection, and the originalitj' of his genius. As a 
man he was a strange mixture of selfishness and generosity, malignity 
and tolerance: he had a peculiar tendency to indirect and cunning 
courses ; and the intense literary ambition hy which, like Voltaire, he 
was kept in an incessant fever, sometimes showed itself in personal and 
sometimes in literary meannesses and jealousies. Of this his quarrel 
with Addison is a characteristic specimen ; while his dishonorable con- 
duct towards Bolingbroke will ever be a blot upon his memory as a 
man. Among his works few of any importance have, I think, been 
left unnoticed. I should perhaps mention his Eclogue of the Messia/i, 
a happy adaptation of the Pollio of Virgil to a sacred subject, the Ode 
on St. Cecilia's Day, in which he was bold enough to try his strength 
with Dryden, and though defeated, yet without disgrace. Pope has 
selected as his illustration of the powers of Music the story of Orpheus, 
and particularly his descent into Hades for Eurydice. He composed a 
considerable number of Epitaphs, some of which are remarkable as 
exemplifying his consummate skill in the art of paying a compliment. 
In a multitude of passages throughout his works we find instances of 
this, and we may apply to him what Macaulay has so gracefully said 

A. D. 1688-1744.] ALEXANDER POPE. 271 

of Voltaire : "No man ever paid compliments better than he. His sweet- 
est confectionery had always a delicate, yet stimulating flavor, which 
was delightful to palates wearied by the coarse preparations of inferior 
artists." The Rape of the Lock, the Epistles, and even the Satires, 
abound in examples of the most artful and ingenious flatteries, often 
veiled, for greater piquancy, under an air of blame : one of the most 
perfect instances is in the closing lines in the Epitaph of young Har- 

§ 6. The subject of the Rape of the Loch, perhaps the most inimita- 
ble of Pope's productions, is the rather cavalier frolic of Lord Petre, a 
man of fashion at the court of Qiieen Anne, in cutting off a lock of 
hair from the head of Arabella Fermor, a beautiful young maid of 
honor. This incident Pope treated with so much grace and delicate 
mock-hex'oic pleasantry, that on consulting Addison on the first sketch 
of the poem, the latter strongly advised him to refrain from altering a 
*' delicious little thing," that any change would be likely to spoil. Pope, 
however, fortunately for his glory, tliough the critic's counsel was as 
prudent as it certainly was sincere, incorporated into his poem the 
delicious supernatural agency of the Sylphs and Gnomes, beings which 
he borrowed from the fantastic theories of Paracelsus and the Rosicru- 
cian philosophers. The action of these miniature divinities, being 
exquisitely proportioned to the frivolous persons and e^■'lv- <»r the 
poem, delightfully replaces the classical deities, some of who'n Tavor, 
while others oppose, the heroes of epic story from Homer downwards ; 
and is far more graceful, as well as original, than the hackneyed person- 
ification of Sloth and other abstract qualities in the famous mock-heroic 
of Boileau. The poem is a little dwarf epic in five books, and bears 
the same relation to the lofty and serious works of which it is a parody, 
as a Dresden china figure does to the Venus or the Apollo. It is all 
sparkling with the flash of diamonds and roguish gla»:es, all a flutter 
with hoop-petticoats, brocades, and powdered wigs. Book I., after a 
due Invocation, describes the counsel given by Ariel in a dream to 
Belinda, whose toilet is then inimitably described. Canto II. relates 
the sacrifice offered hy "the adventurous Baron" in the hope of suc- 
ceeding in his designs on the Lock; after which Belinda goes upon the 
water, and there is a solemn council of the Sylphs, in which their 
chief, Ariel, warns them of the impending danger. In Canto III. the 
courtly party arrives at Hampton Court, where they take coffee, and a 
game of Ombre is described with the minutest detail, and in the man- 
ner of a solemn tournament. After this the tremendous catastrophe is 
described, and the fatal scissors, furnished by a rival beauty, divide the 
fatal lock " from the fair head, forever, and forever! " Canto IV. trans- 
ports us to the gloomy abode of Spleen, and introduces us to the 
Gnomes. Sir Plume, "with earnest eyes and round, vmthinking face," 
is sent by Belinda to demand the restitution of the lock, which is re- 
fused. Canto V. describes a terrific combat — in metaphor — between 
the beaux and belles. Many of the former perish by the cruel 
glances of their fair opponents, when, in the midst of the carnage, the 


Lock, the causa teterrima belli, is suddenly snatched up into the skies, 
where it has ever since glittered as the constellation called the Tress of 

§ 7. The most original genius, as well as the most striking character 
of this period, was Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), who, whether as a 
man or as a writer, occupies a foremost place in the literary and polit- 
ical history of the time. He was born in Dublin, in 1667, of English 
family and descent, his father having the appointment of Steward of 
the King's Inns. His entrance into life was unfortunate, and tended to 
aggravate a natural tendency towards haughty misanthropy and bitter 
self-reliance. His father died in very embarrassed circumstances, and 
Swift, a posthumous child, found himself from his earliest 3'ears a 
dependant upon the charity of distant relations. He passed three 3'ears 
of his infancy in England, and was afterwards sent to a school at Kil- 
kenny, whence he proceeded, in 1682, to Trinity College, Dublin. Here 
he occupied himself with irregular and desultory study, and at last 
received his degree with the unfavorable notice that it was conferred 
" speciali gratia," indicating that his conduct had not satisfied the aca- 
demical authorities. In 1688 he entered the household of Sir William 
Temple, a distant connection of his famih^, who was then residing in 
luxurious retirement at his beautiful villa of Moor Park in Surrey, 
where the cautious and sj^baritical old diplomatist amused himself with 
gardening and dilettante literature. Swift remained in Temple's ser- 
vice as a sort of humble hanger-on, secretary, and literary subordinate, 
and there is no doubt he deeply felt the miseries of dependence which 
must have intensely rankled in the memory of so proud and ambitious 
a character. Temple was frequently visited and consulted by King 
William, from whom Swift, who had occasionally been emploj^ed as a 
messenger between his patron and that prince, expected, but in vain, 
some advancenipnt. It is said that William offered Swift a commission 
in a troop of horse, and taught him the Dutch Avay of cutting and eat- 
ing asparagus. Swift's residence at Moor Park continued down to 
Temple's death in 1699, with, however, one or two intervals, in which 
he took the degree of M. A. at Oxford, and entered into holy orders on 
the Irish Church establishment, having obtained a small preferment 
on which he found it impossible to live. These temporary absences 
were caused by quarrels with his patron, whose eas}' yet supercilious 
condescension his bitter and haughty spirit could not brook; but he 
swallowed his humiliation, and begged pardon in terms which show 
how he chafed against the yoke of dependence, and explain the min- 
gled shame and anger with which in after life he recalled his connec- 
tion with Temple. During this period of his life he was industriously 
employed in study; and steady and extensive reading corrected the 
defects of his earlier education. His acquaintance with history, poe- 
try, and science was considerable, and he possessed in the highest 
degree the power of rendering instantly -available for a specific purpose 
the stores he had acquired. On Temple's death he became the literary 
executor of his patron, and prepared for the press the numerous works 

A. D. 1667-1745.] JONATHAN S}VJFT. ^ 273 

he left, which he presented, with a preface and dedication written by 
himself, to William III. 

§ 8. Failing in obtaining any preferment from that sovereign, never 
remarkable for much sympathy with letters, Swift went to Ireland as 
chaplain to Earl Berkeley, the Viceroy, and received the small livings 
of Laracor and Rathbeggan, altogether amounting to about 400/. a year. 
At Laracor he lived till 1710, amusing himself with gardening and 
repairing his church and parsonage, and making yearly visits to Eng- 
land, v/here the brilliancy of his conversation, his vigorous aptitude for 
atrairs, and his connection with Temple, rendered him acceptable to the 
leading Whig statesmen who were the ministers of the day. He be- 
came the familiar companion of the most illustrious men of the time, 
Halifax, Godolphin, Somers, as well as Addison, equally famous in 
letters and in politics. Congreve he had met when visiting Temple at 
Moor Park, and Dryden was a distant relation of Swift's familj'. Swift's 
persevering dislike to Dryden, whom he constantly underrated in after 
life, is said to have originated in the great poet's unfavorable estimate 
of'some of Swift's verses which were submitted to him, on which occa- 
sion he said, " Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet ! " His connection 
with V/illiam III. and Temple, as well as the predominance at that mo- 
ment of Whig policy, naturally caused Swift to enter public life under 
the Whig banner; but he very soon gave proof that his adherence to 
any party was merely a matter of interest and ambition, and that his 
sole motive was his own personal aggrandizement, the gratification of 
his malignant pride, and the delight of inflicting pain upon his oppo- 
nents. In 1704 was published his first important work, unquestionably 
his production, though never formally owned by him, the savage and 
yet exquisitely humorous pasquinade entitled T/ie Tale of a Tub. 
Temple had actively engaged in the furious controversy that had 
originally been raised in England between Boyle and Atterbury on the 
one hand and the illustrious Bentley on tlie other, respecting the 
genuineness of certain letters ascribed to the tyrant Phalaris. These 
letters had been edited with great parade by a clique of Oxford wits 
and pretended philologers ; and the unequalled knowledge and acumen 
of the greatest of English, perhaps the greatest of all Hellenists, had 
instantly pronounced them spurious, and completely unmasked the 
quackery and sciolism of the Oxford scholars. The dispute originating 
in a mere personal squabble with Bentley, who had been, though 
unjustly, accused of discourtesy in his capacity of librarian to the 
University of Cambridge", soon embraced the then violently-contested 
question of the relative superiority of the Ancients and the Moderns. 
This was a dispute which involved almost all the nations of the Conti- 
nent, and Temple had engaged in the discussion on the side of the An- 
cients, exhibiting a lamentable deficiency of knowledge and common 
sense.* Swift became the champion of the same side, and gave a 
striking foretaste of those tremendous powers of sarcasm and vitupera- 

* For a fuller account of this controversy, see Notes and Illustrations to 
Ch. XVI. 


tion which made him the most formidable pamphleteer that ever exist- 
ed. The merits of the case he does not attempt to tovich ; but with the 
wildest and most grotesque oddity of invention, and the vmscrupulous 
use of everything coarse, familiar, and ludicrous in language, he strives 
to cover his opponents with ignominy and contempt. The plan of the 
pamphlet is in no respect original ; it describes a general engagement 
between the Ancients and the Moderns, in a sort of parody of the 
Homeric battles ; but the boldness and fertility of the abuse show how 
great a master had appeared of the whole vocabulary of insult. Like a 
Chinese piratical junk, he gains his victory by the loathsome offensive- 
ness of the stink-pots which he hurls. 

In 1708 Archbishop King, Primate of Ireland, employed Swift to 
negotiate, in the name of the Irish clergy, with the English government, 
for the abandonment of their claim to the first-fruits and tenths, a 
species of fines paid on the institution to benefices in the Church : 
and with this intention he visited England, and exhibited great activity 
and intelligence, but without obtaining the result he desired. He had 
now rendered himself a prominent person both in his profession and 
in the general world of politics, was known and feared as a powerful 
and unscrupulous pamphleteer, and was the familiar associate of those 
who were at the head of affairs ; but his hopes of preferment were not 
fulfilled. At this time he regarded Ireland with a mixture of contempt 
and detestation, and was eager for any advancement that would enable 
him to reside in England, near the focus of literary and political 
activity; and his failure urged him to an act characteristic of his 
temper. He unceremoniously abandoned his former party, and began 
to write, to intrigue, and to satirize, with even greater force, vehe- 
mence, and success, on the side of the Tories. 

§ 9. Harley, afterwards created Earl of Oxford, and St. John, better 
known as the brilliant but unprincipled Bolingbroke, were now at the 
head of affairs. So formidable a political condottiere as Swift they 
naturally received with open arms ; as a deserter from the enemy's 
camp he brought with him not only the zeal of the apostate, but a 
damaging knowledge of the secrets of the adversary's tactics, and Swift 
was not a man to scruple to use any advantage he possessed. He 
became more useful to his present than he had evfer been to his former 
party, and was caressed and flattered by the great, the fair, the witty, 
and the wise. He affected to treat men of the highest rank with the 
freedom and familiarity of an equal, and this somewhat parvenu air 
was forgiven in consideration of his undoubted talents and the services 
which he rendered with his terrible pen. His negotiation about the 
first-fruits and tenths was successfully terminated, and he poured forth 
with unexampled rapidity squib after squib and pamphlet after pamphlet, 
employing all the stores of his unequalled fancy and powerful sophistry 
to defend his party and to blacken and ridicule his antagonists. The 
great object of his ambition was an English bishopric, and the min- 
isters would have been willing enough to gratify him ; but he encoun- 
tered secret hostility, such as a man of such a stamp could not fail to 

A. D. 1667-1745] JONATHAN SWIFT. 275 

have aroused. Sharp, then Archbishop of York, represented to the 
Qi^ieen that high preferment could not with propriety be conferred upon 
a man whose writings, as in the case of the Tale of a Tub, verged upon 
the verj brink of profanity and indecency; but a still more fatal hos- 
tility was that of the Queen's favorite, the Duchess of Somerset, whom 
Swift had lampooned in a manner that the meekest of her sex could not 
forgive. Swift's bitter and cruel verses had indeed been suppressed as 
soon as printed, but the Duchess threw herself at the Queen's feet with 
a copy of the pasquinade, and he \Qa.vned furen'^ quid fcmi'na possit. 
In spite of the strongest desire to do more for their supporter, the min- 
isters were obliged to confine his recompense to the deanery of St. 
Patrick's, Dublin, to which he was nominated, to his extreme disap- 
pointment, in 1713. He was soon recalled from Ireland, whither he 
had been called by the business of his installation, by the news of an 
irremediable breach between Harley and Bolingbroke. Swift vainly 
interfered to recctficile the statesmen, upon whose union depended the 
whole stability of the government : he found Harley timid, pompous, 
and reserved, and St. John volatile and insolent, and after intense but 
fruitless eiforts to heal their dissension Swift again retired. This took 
place in 1714. Bolingbroke, combining with Mrs. Masham, the Qiieen's 
favorite, who, rising from a humble and almost menial position, had 
gradually succeeded in ousting the imperious Duchess of Marlborough 
from the favor of that weak princess, succeeded in turning out Harley, 
whom the Queen abandoned under pretext of his having appeared 
before her flustered with wine. But St. John's triumph was short. The 
death of Anne and the accession of the Elector of Hanover recalled the 
Whigs to power; the ministry were accused, and with strong grounds 
of probability, of a plot for bringing back the Pretender, and thus nulli- 
fying the Protestant succession ; Oxford and Atterbury were committed 
to the Tower, Bolingbroke fled beyond the sea, and soon made his 
appearance in the exiled court of St. Germains, and Swift retired to 
Ireland, where he was received with a universal yell of contempt and 

§10. During his long and repeated visits to England Swift's com- 
pany and conversation had always been sought after by men of letters 
as well as statesmen. He founded, together with Harley and other 
friends, a sort of Club called the Society of Brothers, in which many 
of his most amusing political squibs were concocted ; and with Pope, 
Gay, and Arbuthnot, he formed what was called the Scriblerus Club, the 
members of which were united by the closest intimacy, and threw into 
a common stock their ideas embodied in the famous Miscellanies. From 
1714 to 1720 Swift resided principally in Ireland, and from being an 
object of detestation raised himself to a height of popularity which has 
never been surpassed even in the stormy political atmosphere of that 
country. The condition of Ireland, always a cancer and a disgrace to 
Britain, was just then unusually deplorable ; the population torn by 
bitter rivahy and mutual persecution between the dominating Protestant 
and the enslaved and impoverished Catholics, while the national evil 


of absenteeism had reduced the agricultural classes to the loAvest abj'ss 
of misery and degradation. In some degree, perhaps, from motives of 
philanthropy, but far more, probably, out of a desire to annoy and em- 
barrass the English government, Swift boldly proclaimed the misery 
of the counti-y, and the force and bitterness of his pamphlets soon 
drew down the persecution of the Ministers. A State prosecution was 
instituted against the printer, which the Government made desperate 
but unavailing efforts, by means of subservient judges and packed 
juries, to carry to a conviction. But the highest point of Swift's Irish 
popularity was attained by the seven famous letters which he wrote, 
signed HI. B. D rapier (draper), and inserted in a Dublin newspaper. 
The occasion was the attempt, on the part of the English ministry, to 
force in Ireland the circulation of a large sum of copper money, the 
contract for coining which had been undertaken by William Wood, a 
Birmingham speculator. This money Swift endeavored to persuade 
the people was enormously below its nominal value, and he counselled 
all true patriots not only to refuse to take it, but to refrain from using 
any English manufactures whatever. The force and animation of his 
arguments, and the exquisite skill with which hewoie his mask of a 
plain, honest, patriotic tradesman, excited the impressionable Ii-ish 
almost to frenzy. As Swift afterwards boasted to Archbishop Boulter, 
he would have had but to lift his finger to cause the ministry to be tora 
in pieces. The government was obliged to renounce the project of 
Wood's coinage, and the attorney-general's indictment of Harding, the 
printer of the letters, though maintained by all the violence of Whit- 
shed, was ignored by the jury. Swift was known to be the real author 
of the letters, and his defence of the rights of the Irish people made 
him from this moment the idol of that warm-hearted and impres- 
sionable race. 

From 1724 to 1737 Swift was occupied with the production not only 
of his greatest and most immortal woi-k, the Travels of Gulliver, but 
with an infinity of pamphlets and occasional compositions. He visited 
England in 1726, when Gulliver was brought out, exciting a universal 
burst of delight and admiration. The death of Stella, one of the few 
beings that Swift ever really loved, happened in 1728, and the loss of 
many friends further contributed to darken and intensify the gloom of 
this proud and sombre spirit. He had from an early period suifered 
more or less constantly from giddiness and pain in the head ; and the 
fearful anticipations of insanity which had constantly haunted him 
were destined to be cruelly verified. In 1741 he was afflicted with a 
painful inflammation which necessitated restraint, and which gradually 
merged into a state of idiocy that lasted without interruption till his 
death in 1745. During the last three years of this period he is said 
Hever to have spoken, and to have shown an almost complete uncon- 
sciousness ; and there is nothing recorded more melancholy or more 
instructive than the spectacle of this great wit and satirist, without any 
attendance save that of mercenary hands, — for his own unaccountable 
and selfish conduct had deprived him of the comforts of a family, — 

A. D. 1667-1745.] JONATHAN SWIFT. 277 

expiring, *' a driveller and a show." He is buried in his own cathedral 
of St. Patrick's, and over his grave is inscribed that epitaph which he 
composed for himself, and which is one of the most tragic and terrible 
of human compositions : in it he speaks of resting " ubi soeva indig- 
natio ulterius cor lacerare nequit; " a fearfully vivid portraiture of his 
own character. 

§ 11. Mv account of Swift would be imperfect without some mention 
of those extraordinary events which are connected with his relations 
towards the two unhappy women whose love for him was the glory and 
the misery of their lives. While residing in Temple's family he became 
acquainted with Esther Johnson, a beautiful young girl brought up as 
a dependant in the house, and who, though passing for the daughter 
of Sir William's steward, appeal's' really to have been a natural child 
of the old diplomatist. To her, while hardly in her teens. Swift gave 
instruction ; and the bond between master and pupil ripened into the 
deepest and tenderest passion on the part of the maiden, and as much 
attachment on that of the former as the proud and bitter nature of 
Swift was capable of feeling. . Having inherited a small fortune, Swift 
induced Stella — such was the poetical name he gave her — to settle 
with her friend Mrs. Dingley in Ireland, where he maintained with 
both of them — though Mrs. Dingley was merely a mask to save ap- 
pearances — that long, curious, and intimate correspondence which 
has since been published as his Journal to Stella. In it we see the 
unbending of this haughty spirit: he addresses his correspondent in 
the fondest puerilities of his "little language," and while giving the 
minutest account of his thoughts and doings from day to day, he inter- 
ests us with a thousand details concerning the political and literary life 
of the time. \ The journal is full of the most affectionate aspirations 
after a tranquil retreat in the society of " little M. D.," and there can be 
hardly any doubt that Swift anticipated marrying Stella, while Stella's 
whole life was filled with the same hope. During one of his visits to 
London Swift became intimate with the family of a rich merchant 
named Vanhomrigh, over whose daughter Hester, to whom he gave 
the name c ' Vanessa, he exerted the, same kind of enchantment as he 
had exhibited in gaining the affections of Stella, a power indeed which 
Swift seems to have eminently possessed over the imagination of women, 
however inexplicable it may be, when we think of the bitterness and 
coldness of his nature. From at first directing her studies he succeeded, 
perhaps involuntarily on his part at first, in inspiring an ardent, beau- 
tiful, and accomplished girl with a passion so deep and intense, that 
the difi'erence of age only makes more difficult to explain. He seem.s 
to have played with this attachment, alternately exciting and discour- 
aging hopes in poor Vanessa; while his letters to Stella in Ireland grow 
gradually colder and more formal. On the death of her father Miss 
Vanhomrigh, who possessed an independent fortune, retired to a villa 
at Celbridge in Ireland, where Swift continued his visits, but without 
clearing up to one of these unhappy ladies the nature of his relations 
with the other. At last Vinessa, driven almost to madness by suspense 


and irritation, wrote to Stella to inquire into the nature of SAvift's 
position with regard to her. The letter was intercepted by Swift, and 
brought back by him, and thrown down without a word, but with a 
terrible countenance, before the unhappy writer. Swift left her, and 
never saw her more ; and poor Vanessa died a few weeks afterwards 
(1723), being one of the rare examples of death of a broken heart. 
Stella, whose health was entirely broken, implored Swift to render hei 
the poor justice of calling her his wife; and it is said that the ceremony 
of marriage was privately performed in the garden, though Swift never 
either recognized her in public, or changed his strange rule of never 
living in the same house with her, or even seeing her otherwise than in 
the presence of a third person. This rule had been observed ever since 
Stella's first settlement in Ireland. This unhappy victim of Swift's 
eccentric selfishness — the second — died in 1728; and in the notices he 
wrote of her, while smarting under the agony of her recent loss, it is 
impossible not to see a love as intense as its manifestation had been 
singular and inexplicable. 

§ 12. The greatest and most characteristic of Swift's prose works is 
the Voyages of Gulliver, a vast and all-embracing satire upon human- 
ity itself, though many of the strokes were at the time intended to 
allude to particular persons and contemporary events. The general 
plan of this book is the following : It is written in the character of a 
plain, unaffected, honest ship-surgeon, who describes the strange scenes 
and adventures through which he passes with that air of simple, 
straightforward, prosaic good faith that gives so much charm to the 
narratives of our brave old navigators, and which Defoe has so suc- 
cessfully mimicked in Robinso7i Crusoe. The contrast between the 
extravagance of the inventions and the gravity with which they are 
related, forms precisely the point of the peculiar humor of Swift, and 
is equally' perceptible in other works, while it was the distinguishing 
feature of that singular saturnine kind of pleasantry which made his 
conversation so sought after. He is said never to have been known to 
laugh; but to have poured forth the quaintest and most fantastic inven- 
tions with an air of gravity and sternness that kept his audience in 
convulsions of merriment. \ This admirable fiction consists of four 
parts or voyages : in the first Gulliver visits the country of Lilliput, 
whose inhabitants are about six inches in stature, and where all the 
objects, houses, trees, ships, and animals, are in exact proportion to 
the miniature human beings. Indeed, one of the principal secrets of 
Swift's humor, as well as of the power he possesses over the imagina- 
tion — I had almost said the belief — of the reader, is the exquisite and 
watchful manner in which these proportions are preserved. The author 
never forgets himself in this respect; naj^, he has managed to give to 
the passions, the ambition, the ceremonies, and the religion of his 
diminutive people an air of the same littleness as invests the physical 
objects. The invention displayed in the droll and surprising incidents 
is as unbounded as the natural and bofid-Jide air with which they are 
recounted ; and we can hardly wonder at the exclamation of the learned 

A. D. I667-I745-] JONATHAN SWIFT. 279 

bishop, who is said to have cried out, " That there were some things in 
Gulliver that he could not quite believe ! " The second voyage is to 
Brobdingnag, a country of enormous giants, of about sixty feet in 
height; and here Gulliver plays the same part as the insect-like Lilli- 
putians had played to him. As in the first voyage, the contemptible 
and ludicrous side of human things is shown by exhibiting how trifling 
they would appear in almost microscopic proportions, so in Brobding- 
nag we are made to perceive how odious and ridiculous would appear 
our politics, our wars, and our ambitions, to the gigantic perceptions 
of a more mighty race. The lesson is the same ; but we learn it by 
looking through the other end of the telescope. The Third Part, 
which is generally found inferior, from the want of unity in the objects 
of representation, to the preceding voyages, carries Gulliver to a series 
of strange and fantastic countries. The first is Laputa, a flying island, 
inhabited by philosophers and astronomers. Here Swift intended to 
satirize the follies and abuses of learning and science; but indepen- 
dently of the fact that much of this part, as the Academy of Lagado, 
is borrowed from Lucian, Rabelais, and other satirists, his strokes of 
ridicule are not always very well directed, and fall pointless, being 
levelled against imaginary follies. From Lagado the traveller goes to 
Glubbdubdrib and then to Luggnagg, which latter episode introduces 
the terrific description of the Struldbrugs, wretches who are cursed 
with bodily immortality without preserving at the same time their 
intellects or their affections. 

Gulliver's last voyage is to the country of the Houyhnhnms, a region 
in which horses are the reasoning, civilized, and dominant beings ; and 
where men, under the name of Yahoos, are degraded to the rank of 
noxious, filthy, and unreasoning brutes. The manner in which Swift 
has described the latter, retaining a resemblance to man in their pro- 
pensities which only renders them more horrible and loathsome, shows 
how intense were his hatred and scorn of humanity. The satire goes 
on, deepening as it advances; playful and amusing in the scenes of Lil- 
liput, it grows blacker and bitterer at every step, till in the Yahoos it 
reaches a pitch of almost insane ferocity, which there is but too much 
reason to believe faithfully embodied Swift's real opinion of his fellow- 

§ 13. In the Tale of a Tub he gives a burlesque allegorical account 
of the three great sects of Christianity, the Roman Catholic, the Lu- 
theran, and the Calvinistic churches. These are represented with the 
wildest and most farcical extravagance of incident, under the form of 
three brothers, Peter, Jack, and Martin ; and their squabbles and ulti- 
mate separation figure the Reformation and its consequences. Between 
the chapters of narrative are interposed what Swift calls digressions^ in 
Vx'hich the most ludicrous fancies are embodied in a degree of out-of-the- 
way learning not to be met with in any other of his works. Everything 
that is droll and familiar in ideas and language is concentrated in this 
extraordinary production, and many of the pleasantries are suflliciently 
irreverent to justify the accusation of his religious belief not being very 


firmly fixed. The innumerable pamphlets and political and historical 
tracts poured forth bv Swift, as his Conduct of the Allies, the Public 
Spirit of the Whigs, the Last Tears of ^ueen An?ie. his contributions 
to journals, his Sentiments of a Church of England Man, his remarks 
on the Sacramental Test, and a multitude of others, being written on 
local and temporary subjects, are now little consulted ; they all exhibit 
the vigor of his reasoning, the admirable force and directness of his 
style, and his' unscrupulous ferocity- of invective. They are all, what- 
ever be their nature, party pamphlets of the most virulent kind, in which 
the author was never restrained by any feeling of his own dignity, or of 
candor and indulgence for others, from overwhelming his opponents 
with ridicule and abuse. He is like the Indian savage,-'who, in torturing 
his captive at the stake, cares little how he wounds and burns himself, 
so long as he can make his victim writhe; or, like the street ruiiian, 
who, in hurling ordure on his antagonist, is indifferent to the filth that 
may stick to his own fingers. The bitterness, as well as the power, of 
these writings is often something almost diabolical. Many of his 
smaller prose writings are purely satirical, as his Polite Co7iversatio?i 
and Directions to Serva?its: In the former he has combined in a sort 
of comic manual all the vulgar repartees, nauseous jokes, and selling of 
bargains, that were at that time common in smart conversation ; and in 
the hitter, under the guise of ironical precepts, he shows how minute 
and penetrating had been his observations of the Ij'ing, pilfering, and 
dirty practices of servants. Perhaps the plcasantest, as they are the 
most innocent, of his prose pleasantries, are the papers written in the 
character of Isaac B'ckerstaff, where he shovvs up, v/ith exquisite drol- 
lery, the quackerj'- of the astrologer Partridge. His letters are very 
numerous ; and those addressed to his intimate friends, as Pope and 
Gay, and those written to Sheridan, half-friend and half-butt, contain 
inimitable specimens of his peculiar humor, which has been excellently 
described by Coleridge as " anima Rabekesii habitans in sicco." The 
three greatest satirical wits of modern times possess each a peculiar 
manner. Rabelais, with his almost frantic animal spirits, pours forth 
a side-shaking mixture of erudition and ingenious bufi'oonerj' ; Voltaire, 
with his sly grin of contempt, makes everything he attacks appear at 
once odious and despicable ; but Swift inspires us with loathing as well 
as with contempt. We laugh with Rabelais, we sneer with Voltaire ; 
with Swift we despise and Ave abhor. He will not only be ever regarded 
as one of the greatest masters of English prose, but his poetical works 
will give him a prominent place among the writers of his age. The}' 
are, however, most strongly contrasted in their style and manner to the 
type most prevalent at the time, and of which Pope is the most complete 
representative. They have no pretension to loftiness of language, are 
written in the sermo pedestris, in a tone studiously preserving the famil- 
iar expression of common life. In nearly all of them Swift adopted the 
short octosyllable verse that Prior and Gay had rendered popular. The 
poems show the same wonderful acquaintance with ordinary incidents 
as the prose compositions, the same intense observation of human 

A. D. 1667-I735-] ARBUTIINOT. 281 

nature, and the same profoundly misanthropic view of maiikind. The 
longest of the narrative writings, Cade?ius (Decanus, an anagram indi- 
cating the Dean himself) and Vanessa, is at the same time the least 
interesting. It gives an account, though not a very clear one, of the 
love-episode which terminated so fatally for poor Hester Va,nhomrigh, 
The most likely to remain popular are the Verses on my oivn Death, 
describing the mode in which that event, and Swift's own character, 
would be discussed among his friends, his enemies, and his acquaint- 
ances ; and perhaps there is no composition in the world which gives so 
easy, animated a picture, at once satirical and true, of the language and 
sentiments of ordinary society. He produced an infinity of small bur- 
lesques and pleasantries, in prose and verse, as for example. The Grand 
^uestio7i Debated, in which he has, with consummate skill and humor, 
adopted the maundering style of a vulgar servant-maid. Shakspeare 
himself, in Mrs. Qiiickly and in Juliet's Nurse, has not more accurately 
seized the peculiarities of the lower class. A thousand parodies, jests, 
punning Latin and English letters,''epigrams and descriptions might be 
cited. Many of them are slight toys of the fancy, but they are toys 
executed with the greatest perfection, and in some, as the Legion Club, 
the verses on Bettesworth and Lord Cutts, the ferocious satire of Swift 
is seen in its full intensity : they are little sparkling bubbles, but they 
are blown from vitriolic acid. 

§ 14. No member of the brilliant society of which Pope and Swift 
were the chief luminaries, deserves more respect, both for his intel- 
lectual and personal qualities, than Dr. John Arbuthnot (1667-1735). 
He was of Scottish origin, and enjoyed high reputatipn as a physician, 
in which capacity he remained attached to the court from 1709 till the 
death of Queen Anne. He was one of the most lovable, as well as the 
most learned and accomplished wits of the daj^, and was a chief con- 
tributor to those Miscellanies of which I have so' often spoken in 
connection with Pope. He is supposed to have conceived the plan of 
that extensive satire on the abuses of learning, embodied in the Me- 
moirs of Martinus Scriblerus, and to have indeed executed the best 
portions of that comprehensive though fragmentary work, and in par- 
ticular the description of the pedantic education given to his son by the 
learned Cornelius. But the fame of Arbuthnot is more intimately 
connected with the inimitable History of John Bull, in which the 
intrigues and Wars of the Succession are so drolly caricatured. The 
object of the work was to render the prosecution of the war by Marl- 
borough unpopular with the nation ; but the adventures of Squire South 
(Austria), Lewis Baboon (France), Nic. Frog (Holland), and Lord 
Strutt (the King of Spain), are related with fun, odd humor, and 
familiar vulgarity of language. There is much of the same kind of 
humor as we find in the Tale of a Tub, and in Gulliver ; but Arbuth- 
not is always good-natured, and there is no trace of that fierce bitterness 
and misanthropy which tinge every page of Swift. In the latter part 
of the History Arbuthnot details with great humor some of the political 
intrigues of the English ministry, and in particular the way in which 


the Scottish Presbyterian party were tricked bj' the Earl of Nottingham 
into assenting to the bill for Occasional Conformity. The characters of 
the various nations and parties are conceived and maintained with 
consummate spirit; and perhaps the popular ideal of John Bull, with 
which Englishmen are so fond of identifying their personal and national 
peculiarities, was first stamped and fixed by Arbuthnot's -amusing bur- 
lesque. Besides these well-known pleasantries Arbuthnot's fertile and 
festive genius produced others in the same manner, as the Ar^ of Politi- 
cal Lying, and the Memoirs of P. P. Clerk of this Parish, intended to 
caricature the trifling and egotistic details of Brunet's History. He was 
also the author of many learned tracts both in general literature and in 
subjects more immediately professional; and he seems to have fully 
deserved the admiration lavished upon him by all his friends, as an 
accomplished scholar, an able and benevolent physician, and a wit of 
singular brilliancy and fertility. 

§ 15. Matthew Prior (1664-1 721) was a poet and diplomatist of 
this time, who plaj^ed a prominent part on the stage of politics as well 
as on that of literature. He was of humble origin, and after receiving 
a commencement of education in Westminster School, is said to have 
been obliged to pass some time with an uncle who kept a tavern in 
London, and in whose house the lad was employed in serving the cus- 
tomers. His scholarship is related to have attracted the notice of the 
splendid and generous Dorset, who enabled him to finish his studies at 
St. John's College, Cambridge, where he distinguished himself and 
obtained a small fellowship. He took part with Montagu, another of 
his patrons, in the composition of the Country Mouse and City Alouse, 
a poem intended to ridicule Dryden's Hind and Panther ; and the door 
of public employment was soon opened to him. His career in the 
diplomatic service was brilliant : after accompanying Berkeley, Ambas- 
sador to the Hague, as Secretary, he became Secretary of Legation at 
the Peace of Ryswick, and received a considerable pecuniary gratifica- 
tion from the Government. He twice resided at Versailles in the 
capacitj' of envoy, and by his talents in negotiation as well as by his 
wit and accomplishments in society appears to have been very popular 
among the French. Many stories are related of his address in polished 
repartee, in which he showed himself not inferior to the Parisian wits 
and men of letters. On returning to England he v/as made a Commis- 
sioner of Trade, and in 1701 became a member of the House of Com- 
mons. Though he had entered public life as a partisan of the Whigs, 
he now deserted them for the Tories, on the occasion of the impeach- 
ment of Lord Somers ; and he again went to Paris, where he lived in 
great splendor during the negotiations in which Bolingbroke acceded to 
the disgraceful Treaty of Utrecht. In 1715 he was ordered into custody 
by the Whigs, on a charge of high treason, and remained two years in 
confinement. The worst result to Prior of this political persecution 
was the loss of all his fortune, his means of subsistence being now 
nearly reduced to the small revenue of his college fellowship, which in 
the days of his splendor he had refused to give up, prudently calculat- 

A. D. I688-I732-] PRIOR. GAY. 283 

ing that the time might come when he would be glad to possess even 
so small an income. However, with the assistance of his friends, he 
published by subscription a collection of his works, the proceeds of 
which amounted to a considerable sum. • Prior was an easy Epicurean 
philosopher of the Horatian stamp, and accommodated himself with 
facility to every change of fortune. His longer and more ambitious 
poems are Alma, a metaphysical discussion carried on in easy, unem- 
barrassed Hudibrastic verse, exhibiting a good deal of thought and 
learning disguised under an easy conversational garb; and the Epic 
entitled Solomon, a poem somewhat in the manner, and with the same 
defects as the Davideis of Cowley. A work of considerable length, 
and ambitious in its character, is the dialogue entitled Henry and 
Emma, modernized, and spoiled in the modernizing, from the exqui- 
site old ballad of the Niitbroxvne Alaide. The transference to modern 
times, and the expression in the smooth verse of the correct school of 
poets, of the simple passion and picturesque sentiment of the ancient 
poem, is like the appearance of Homer in the version of Pope. Prior's 
two claims to admiration are his easy, animated, half-tender, half- 
libertine love-songs, many of which exhibit the same union of natural 
though not profound sentiment with a sort of philosophic gayety and 
carelessness that form the peculiar charm of the French chansonniers. 
Prior composed a number of Tales in verse, in the same style as the 
Contes of La Fontaine, showing much similarity with that class of 
productions of the inimitable fabulist, but open to the same objection 
— an objection which will now exclude them from the reading of oui 
more fastidious age — of occasional immorality in their subjects and 

§ 16. The name of John Gay (1688-1732) is one of the most attrac- 
tive among the brilliant literary stars that make up the constellation 
of which Pope and Swift were the leading luminaries. He was one of 
those easy, amiable, good-natured men who are the darlings of their 
friends, and whose talents excite admiration without jealous3% while their 
characters are the object rather of fondness than respect. He was born 
1688, and carried oif prematurely by an inflammatory fever, in 1732; 
and his death filled the jealous Pope with sorrow, and forced tears even 
from the hard and cynical eyes of Swift. He entered life in a humble 
station, as a linen-draper's shopman, but soon exchanged this occupa- 
tion for a dependence upon the great, which was not more favorable 
either to happiness or self-respect, and for a vain pining after public 
employment and court favor for which his indolent and self-indulgent 
habits rendered him singularly unfit. His most important poetical 
productions at the beginning of his career were the collection of Ec- 
logues entitled The Sliepherd's Week, and the original and charmingly 
executed mock-didactic poem. Trivia, or the Art of Walking- the 
Streets of London. In the former, consisting of seven pastorals, he 
originallj^ intended a parody on Ambrose Philips, whose writings were 
the general butt or ridicule to Pope and his friends ; but the work of 
Gay is so fresh and pleasant, and his descriptions of real English rural 


nature and peasant life are so agreeable that his composition will 
always be read with pleasure for its intrinsic merit. Like Spenser 
before him, Gay gave a national color to his personages and to his 
landscape, but his incidents and the general tone of his dialogues are 
comic. He has shown great address in applying the topics of The- 
ocritus and Virgil to the customs, employments, and superstitions of 
English peasants, and he has endeavored to heighten the effect by the 
occasional employment of antiquated and provincial expressions. The 
Trivia is interesting, not only for its ease and quiet humor, but for the 
curious details it gives us of the sti-eet scenery, costume, and manners 
of that time. Gay produced several dramatic works, principally of a 
comic nature, and interspersed with .songs, for the composition of which 
he showed an almost unrivalled talent : I may mention What d'ye Call 
it f a sort of half-pastoral extravaganza, and the farce of Three Hours 
after Marriage. Gay's pieces generally contained, or were supposed 
to contain, occasional political allusions, the piquancy of which greatly 
contributed to their popularitj-. They are also seldom free from a 
somewhat loose and immoral tendency. His most successful venture was 
the Beggars' Opera, the idea of which is said to have been first sug- 
gested by Swift, when residing, in 1726, at Pope's villa at Twickenham. 
The idea of this piece is eminently happy : it was to transfer the songs 
and incidents of the Italian Opera — then almost a noveltj^ in England, 
and in the blaze of popularity — to the lowest class of English life. The 
hero of the Beggars' Opera is a highwajman. and gaolers, pickpockets, 
' and prostitutes form the dramatis personee, while the scene is princi- 
pally in Newgate. In a word, to use Swift's expression, it was a kind 
of Newgate pastoral, and was a sort of parody of the opera then in 
vogue, while it became the origin of the English Opera. The beauty 
and charming voTce of Elizabeth Fenton, who first acted Polh', the 
satirical allusions plentifully scattered through the dialogue, and eager- 
\y caught up by the parties of the day, the novelty and oddity of the 
whole spectacle, and above all, the exquisite beauty of the songs plen- 
tifully interspersed throughout, gave the Beggars' Opera an unpar- 
alleled success. Pollj^ became the idol of the town, and was removed 
fi'om the stage to share the coronet of a duke ; and Gay acquired from 
the performance of his piece the very large sum of nearly 700/. He 
was encouraged by success to endeavor to continue in the same strain, 
and produced a kind of continuation called Polly, which, though far 
inferior, was even more profitable, for being prohibited on the gro ;nd 
of political allusions, by the authority of the Lord Chamberlain, the 
opposition party, in order to spite the court, contributed so liberally to 
its publication that Gay is said to have cleared about iioo/. The poet, 
vi^ith that sanguine improvidence which characterized him, had previ- 
ously met with severe losses in the famous South Sea mania; but 
grown wiser by experience, and profiting by the advice of friends who 
possessed more practical common sense than himself, he determined to 
husband the little fortune he had accumulated. He was received into 
tlie family of the Duke and Duchess of Qtieensberry, where he seians 

A.D. 1618-1765.] GARTH. PARNELL. TICKELL. YOUNG. 285 

to have been petted like some favorite lapdog, till his death in 1732. 
He was the author of a collection of Fables in easy octosyllable verse, 
which he wrote to contribute to the education of William Duke of 
Cumberland ; and though these are the best-known and most frequently 
cited works of the kind in our language, they will be found immeasu- 
rably inferior in wit, profound sense, picturesqueness, and above all in 
the rare, precious quality of intense national spirit, to the immortal 
fables of La Fontaine and of Krinloff. They retain their popularity 
froin their figuring in every collection of poetry for the young, their 
style rendering them peculiarly adapted for reading and learning by 
heart. Gay's songs and ballads, whether those introduced into the 
Beggars' Opera and other dramatic works, or those written separately, 
are among the most musical, touching, playful, and charming that exist 
in the language. The diction and subject are often of the most familiar 
kind, but the grace of the expression, and the flowing harmony of the 
verse, make them, whether pathetic or lively, masterpieces of skill. 
They have, too, invariably that rare and high attribute of the best 
song-writing, that the very march of the number irresistibly suggests 
the air to which they are to be sung. 

§ 17. My space will only permit a cursory mention of Sir Samt el 
Garth (died in 1718), a Whig phj'^sician of eminence, whose poem of 
The Dispensary, written on occasion of a squabble between the ColLge 
of Phj'Sicians and the Apothecaries' Company, was half satirical iind 
half a plea in favor of giving medical assistance to the poor; Thoima.S 
Parnell (1679-1718), a friend of Pope and Swift, who held a liviii.3 m 
Ireland, and is known chiefly by his graceful but somewhat feeble tv/e 
of The Hermit, a versified parable founded on a striking story oriji,!- 
nally derived from the Gesta Romajzorum ; and Thomas Tickell (i686- 
1740), celebrated for his friendship with the accomplished Adaison, 
whose death suggested a noble elegj^ the only work of Tickell which 
rises above the elegant mediocrity that marks the general tone of the 
minor poetry of that age. Tickell contributed papers to the Spectator^ 
and also published a translation of the first book of the Iliad, which 
led to a misunderstanding between Addison and Pope (see p. -293). 
Tickell published a collected edition of Addison's works. 

§ 18- I now come to Edward Young (1681-1765), the most power- 
ful of the secondary poets of the epoch. He began his career in the 
unsuccessful pursuit of fortune in the public and diplomatic service of 
the country. Disappointed in his hopes and somewhat soured in his 
temper, he entered the church, and serious domestic losses still further 
intensified a natural tendency to morbid and melancholy reflection. 
He obtained his first literary fame by his satire entitled th<* Lox^e of 
Fame, the Universal Passion, written before he had abandoned a secu- 
lar career. It is in rhyme, and bears considerable resemblance to the 
manner of Pope, though it is deficient in that exquisite grace and neat- 
ness which distinguish the latter. In referring the vice? and follies 
of mankind chiefly to vanity and the foolish desire of applause. 
Young exhibits a false and narrow view of human motives ; but there 


are many passages in the three epistles which compose this satire, that 
exhibit strong powers of observation and description, and a keen and 
vigorous expression which, though sometimes degenerating into that 
tendency to paradox and epigram which are the prevailing defect of 
Young's genius, are not unworthy of his great model. The Second 
Epistle, describing the character of women, may be compared, without 
altogether losing in the parallel, to Pope's admirable, work on the same 
subject. But Young's place in the history of English poetry — a place 
long a very high one, and which is likely to remain a far from unenvia- 
ble one — is due to his striking and original poem The Night Thoughts. 
This work, consisting of nine nights or meditations, is in blank verse, 
and consists of reflections on Life, Death, Immortality, and all the 
most solemn subjects that can engage the attention of the Chi-istian 
and the philosopher. The general tone of the work is sombre and 
gloomy, perhaps in some degree affectedly so, for though the author 
perpetually parades the melancholy personal circumstances under 
which he wrote, ovei^whelmed by the rapidly-succeeding losses of many 
who were dearest to him, the reader can never get rid of the idea that 
the grief and desolation were purposely exaggerated for effect. In 
spite of this, however, the grandeur of Nature and the sublimity of 
the Divine attributes are so forcibly and eloquently depicted, the argu- 
ments against sin and infidelity are so concisely and powerfully urged, 
and the contrast between the nothingness of man's earthly aims and 
the immensity' of his immortal aspirations is so pointedly set before us, 
that the poem will always make deep impression on the religious reader. 
The prevailing defects of Young's mind were an irresistible tendency 
to antithesis and epigrammatic contrast, and a want of discrimination 
that often leaves him utterly unable to distinguish between an idea 
really just and striking, and one which is oxAy superficially so: and 
this want of taste frequently leads him into illustrations and compar- 
isons rather puerile than ingenious, as when he compares the stars to 
diamonds in a seal-ring upon the finger of the Almighty. He is also 
remarkable for a deficiency in continuous elevation, advancing, so to 
say, by jerks and starts of pathos and sublimity. The march of his 
verse is generally solemn and majestic, though it possesses little of the 
rolling, thunderous melody of Milton ; and Young is fond of introdu- 
cing familiar images and expressions, often with great effect, amid his 
most lofty bursts of declamation. The epigrammatic nature of some of his 
most striking images is best testified by the large number of expres- 
sions which have passed from his writings into the colloquial language 
of society, such as " procrastination is the thief of time," " all men 
think all men mortal but themselves," and a multitude of others. A 
sort of quaint solemnity, like the ornamentation upon a Gothic tomb, 
is the impression which the Night Thoughts are calculated to make 
upon the reader in the present time; and it is a strong proof of the 
essential greatness of his genius, that the quaintness is not able to 
extinguish the solemnity. 

§ 19. The poetry of the Scottish Lowlands found an adniii*able 

A. D. 16S6-1758.] ALLAN RAMSAY. 287 

representative at this time in Allan Ramsay (16S6-1758), born in a 
humble class of life, and who was first a wigmaker, and afterwards 
a bookseller in Edinburgh. He was of a happy, jovial, and contentet. 
humor, and rendered great services to the literature of his country bj 
reviving the taste for the excellent old Scottish poets, and by editing 
and imitating the incomparable songs and ballads current among the 
people. He was also the author of an original pastoral poem, the Gcn- 
tle (or Noble) Shepherd^ which grew out of two eclogues he had written, 
descriptive of the rural life and scenery of Scotland. The complete 
work appeared in 1725, and consists of a series of dialogues in verse, 
written in the melodious and picturesque dialect of the country, and 
interwoven into a simple but interesting love-story. The pictures of 
nature given in this charming work, equally faithful and ideal, the 
exact representation of real peasant life and sentiment, which Ramsay, 
with the true instinct of a poet, knew how to make strictly true to 
reality without a particle of vulgarity, and the light but firm delinea- 
tions of character, render this poem far superior in interest, however 
inferior in romantic ideality, to the Pastor Fido, the Galatea^ or the 
Faithful Shepherdess. The songs he has occasionally interspersed, 
though they may sometimes be out of place by retarding the march of 
the events, are often eminently beautiful, as are many of those scattered 
through Ramsay's voluminous collections, in which he combined the 
revival of older compositions with imitations and originals of his own. 
It is impossible to overrate the influence which Ramsay exerted in pro- 
liucing, in the following century, the unequalled \yr\z genius of his 
great successor, Burns. The treasures of tenderness, beautiful descrip- 
tion, and sly humor which Ramsay transmitted from Dunbar, James I., 
David Lyndsay, and a thousand nameless national bards, were concen- 
trated into one splendid focus in the writings of the author of a Tarn 
O Shunter. 





ElCHAED Savage (1G96-1743), so well known for 
Johnson's account of him, was the bastard child of 
Richard Savage, Earl Rivers, and the Countess of 
Macclesfield. He led a dissipated and erratic life, 
the victim of circumstances and of hLs own passions. 
In his miscellaneous poems the best are The Wan- 
derer and The Bastard. 

Sm RiOHAKU Blaokmoke (1658?-1729), a phy- 
sician in extensive practice, and knighted by Wil- 
liam III. wrote several epic poems, of which I'he 
Creation, published in 1712, has been admitted into 
the collections of the British Poets. Johnson re- 
marks, that " Blackmore, by the unremitted enmity 
of the wits, whom he provoked more by his virtue 
than his dulness, has been exposed to worse treat- 
ment than he deserved." And he adds, that " the 
poem on Creation wants ncitlier harmony of num- 
bers, accuracy of thought, nor elegance of diction." 

AMuaoSE Philips (1675-1749), educated at St. 
John's College, Cambridge, was a friend of Addison 
and Steele, but was violently attacked by Pope. He 
wrote three tragedies and some I'astorah, which 
were much admired at the time, but are now de- 
servedly forgotten. "The pieces of Philips that 
please best," observes Johnson, " are those which, 
from tope and Pope's adherents, procured him the 
name oi Naniby I'ambt/, the poems of short lines, by 
which he paid his court to all ages and characters, 
from Walpole, the ' steerer of the realm,' to Miss 
Pulteney in the nursery. The numbers are smooth 
and sprightly, and the diction is seldom faulty. 
They arc not mucli loaded with thought, yet, if 
they had been written by Addison, they would have 
had admirers." 

GEORciE Granville, Lord Lansdowne 
(16<i&-17;^), some of whose poems are included in 
the collection of the British Poets, a distinction to 
which they are hardly entitled. His early pieces 
were commended bj' old Waller, whose faults he 
imitated. Pope designates him as " Granville the 
polite." His verses to Mira are best known. 

Anne Countess of WiNonELSEA (d. 1720). 
The writings of this lady, with all the smoothness 
and elegance of the age, gave indications of the 
better days that were coming upon English poetry. 
Between t5e Paradise Lost and the Seasons, ]Mr. 
Wordsworth says that there is not a " single new 
image of external nature," except in the Windsor 
Forest of Pope and the Nocturnal Reverie of the 
poetess. She was the daughter of Sii- William 
Kingsmill, Southampton. 

Dk. Isaac Watts (1074-1748) was bom at South- 
ampton, July 17, 1074, and educated among the 
dissenters by the Rev. Thomas Rowe. In 1098 he 
became minister of the Independent congregation 
at Stoke Newington, where he labored, under de- 
clining health, until 1712, when he entered the house 
of Sir Thomas Abney of Abney Park, and continued 
the guest of tlie baronet, and afterwards of his 
widow, preaching occasionally, but chiefly devoting 
himself to study and literature until his death on the 
25th JSTovember, 1748. Dr. Watts's talents were of a 
high order, and his efiorts bore him over a most 
extended field of study. His style is easj' and 
graceful, and his poelie diction gives him a high 
place among the religious poets of England. His 
Psalms and Hi/inns, whilst full of imperfections, are 
yet acknowledged to contain some of the finest spe- 
cimens of praise in the English tongue, whilst his 
prose writings, embracing theological, philosophi- 
cal, and polemical works, have exercised an ex- 
tensive and wholesome influence, especially upon 
the more popular classes of the community. " It 
was therefore, with great propriety," said Dr. John- 
son, " that in 1728 he received from Edinburgh and 
Aberdeen an unsolicited diploma by which he be- 
came a Doctor of Divinity. Academical honors 
would have more value if they were always be- 
stowed with equal judgment." 

His chief works were — Logic, 1725, once used as 
a text book at Oxford. Astronomy and Geography, 
1726. Works for Young Children. Essays and 
theological writings. 

A. D. 1672-1719.] JOSEPH ADDISON, 289 



} 1. Joseph Addison : his life. The Campaign. Travels in Italy. Rosamond. 
The Drummer. § 2. His connection with Steele : life of the latter. The 
Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian. ^ 3. Addison's Cato. Made Secretary of 
State. His death. His quarrel with Pope. His character. § 4. His contri- 
butions to the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian. § 5. His poetry. § 6. Sir 
William Temple. § 7. Bishop Atterbuky. ^ 8. Lord Shaftesbury. 
His Characteristics. § 9. Lord Bolingbroke. His works. His connection 
with David Mallet. ^ 10. Bernard Mandeville. His Fable of the Bees. 
§ II. Bishop Berkeley. His Minute Philosopher and Theory of Vision. 
§ 12. Lady Mary Montagu. Her letters. Compared with those of Madame 
de Sevigne. 

§ 1. The class of writers who form the subject of this chapter are 
identified with the creation of a new and peculiar form of English liter- 
ature, which was destined to exert a powerful and most beneficial influ- 
ence on the manners and intellectual development of society. The 
m.ode of publication was periodical, and a kind of journals made their 
appearance, many of them enjoying an immense popularity, combining 
a small modicum of public news with a species of short essay or lively 
dissertation on some subject connected with morality or criticism, and 
inculcating principles of virtue in great, and good taste and politeness 
in small things. The Essay was first made popular by Montaigne, and 
the taste for this easy and desultory form of composition became gen- 
eral throughout Europe. It was in England that it was first combined 
with the principle of journalism. The first establishment of this species 
of publication is due to Sir Richard Steele, of whom we shall give 
some account presently. His most illustrious fellow-laborer in the task 
of disseminating among the higher and middle classes a better tone of 
manners and a taste for intellectual enjoyments was Joseph x\ddison 
(1672-1719). This great writer and excellent man was the son of 
Lancelot Addison, a divine of some reputation for learning, and was 
born in 1672. He was educated at the Charter-house, from whence he 
passed to Queen's and ultimately to Magdalen College, Oxford; and 
here he distinguished himself by the regularity of his conduct, the 
assiduity of his application, and his exquisite taste in Latin verse. 
Indeed his knowledge of the Roman literature, and especially of the 
poets, was accurate and profound. His graceful exercises in this elegant 
branch of letters, and in particular his poems on Punch and Judy (the 
Machince Gesticulantes) and on the Barometer, made him the hope and 
pride of his College. His first essays in English verse were a eulogistic 
poem on the King, which was honored with the high approval of 
Dryden ; and it was under Dryden's wing that Addison continued hi« 

290 THE ESS A TISTS. [Chap. XVI. 

trial-flight, translating the IVth Georgia of Virgil. Lord Somers pro- 
cured for the rising neophyte a pension of 300/., which enabled him to 
travel in France and Italy, and he gave speedy proof hovv^ well he had 
profited by these opportunities of employing and extending his classi- 
cal and philosophical acquirements. During his sojourn in France he 
had an interview with the aged Boileau, then the patriarch of poetry 
and criticism, and the literary lawgiver not only to his own country 
but to England. The accession of King WilliaKi. deprived Addison of 
his pension ; and he passed some time in London very poor in purse, 
but exhibiting that dignified patience and quiet reserve which made his 
character so estimable. In his retirement he was found out by the 
Ministers, who being desirous that the recent triumphs of Marlborough 
should be celebrated in verse in a worthy manner, Godolphin was 
deputed to propose to him that he should write a poem oil the immor- 
tal campaign which had just terminated in the victory of Blenheim. 
Addison readily undertook the task; and the unfinished portion, con- 
taining the once celebrated comparison of the great leader to the 
Destroying Angel, being shown to the INIinisters, they were in raptures; 
and the work, when it appeared, under the title of The Campaign, was 
universally pronounced superior not only to Boileau, but to anything 
that had hitherto been written in the same style. The verses appear to 
modern readers stiff and artificial enough ; but Addison deserves credit 
for having been the first to abandon the absurd custom of former poets, 
who praise a military hero for mere personal courage, and paint him 
slaughtering whole squadrons with his single arm, and to place the 
glory of a great general on its true basis — power of conceiving and 
executing profound intellectual combinations, and calmness and imper- 
turbable foresight in the hour of danger. Literary services were at 
that time often rewarded with political advancement, and from this 
moment the career of Addison was a brilliant and successful one. He 
was appointed Under-Secretary of State, and Chief Secretary for Ire- 
land, besides which high posts he at different times received various 
other places, both lucrative and honorable. The publication of the 
Cajnpaign had been followed by that of his Travels in Italy, exhibiting 
proofs not only of Addison's graceful and accomplished scholarship, but 
also of that quiet yet delicate humor, that humane and benevolent 
morality, and that deep though not bigoted religious spirit, which so 
strongly mark his character and his writings. In 1707 he gave to the 
world his pleasing and graceful opera or musical entertainment entitled 
Rosamond ; and about this time he in all probability sketched out the 
comedy of the Drununer, which, however, was not published till after 
his death, when it was brought out by his friend Steele, who is said to 
have had some share in its composition. It is deficient in plot and 
vivacity of interest; but many of the scenes exhibit much comic power, 
and the character of Vellum, the old steward, is in particular extremely 

§ 2. It was about this period of his career that Addison embarked in 
that literary venture first launched by his friend Steele, and with his 

Ar D. 1672-1719.] JOSEPH ADDISON. 291 

share in which is connected the most durable element of his fame ; and 
I shall introduce here, incidentally, a short account of Steele himself. 
Sir Richard Steele (1675-1729) was of Irish origin, but had been 
the schoolfellow of Addison, upon whom, both at the Charter-house 
and afterwards during his short stay at Oxford, he seems to have looked 
with a curious and most affecting mixture of veneration and love. His 
life was full of the wildest vicissitudes, and his character was one of 
those which it is equally impossible to hate and to respect. His heart 
was inordinately tender, his benevolence deep, and his aspirations 
lofty; but his passions were strong, and he had so much of the Irish 
impressionableness that his life was passed in sinning and repenting, in 
getting into scrapes and making projects of reformation which a total 
want of prudence and self-control prevented him from executing. Pas- 
sionately fond of pleasure, and always ready to sacrifice his own 
interest for the whim of the moment, he caused himself to be disin- 
herited for enlisting in the Horse-Guards as a private; and when after- 
wards promoted to a commission, astonished the town by his wild 
extravagance, in the midst of which he wrote a moral and religious 
treatise entitled the Christian Hero, breathing the loftiest sentiments 
of piety and virtue. He was a man of ready though not solid talents ; 
and being an ardent partisan pamphleteer, was rewarded by Govern- 
ment with the place of Gazetteer, which gave him a sort of monopoly 
of official news at a time when newspapers were still in their infancy. 
He determined to profit by the facilities this post afforded him, and to 
found a new species of periodical which should combine ordinary intel- 
ligence with a series of light and agreeable essays upon topics of 
universal interest, likely to improve the taste, the manners, and morals 
of society. It should be remarked that this was a period when literary 
taste was at its lowest ebb among the middle and fashionable classes 
of England. The amusements, when not merely frivolous, were either 
immoral or brutal. Gambling, even among women, was frightfully 
prevalent; and the sports of the men were marked with a general 
stamp of crueltjs and of an indulgence in drunkenness which I will 
venture to call — for I know no more appropriate word — blackguard- 
ly. In such a state of things intellectual pleasures and acquirements 
were regarded either with wonder or contempt. The fops and fine 
ladies actually prided themselves on their ignorance of spelling, and 
any allusion to books was scouted as pedantry. Such was the disease 
which Steele desired to cure, and he determined to treat it, not with 
formal doses of moral declamation, but with homoeopathic quantities of 
good sense, good taste, and pleasing morality, disguised under an easy 
and fashionable style. In 1709 he founded the Tatler, a small sheet 
which appeared thrice a week at the cost of id., each number contain- 
ing a short essay, generally extending to about a couple of octavo 
pages, and the rest filled up with news and advertisements. The popu- 
larity of this new kind of journal was instant and immense; no tea- 
table, no coffee-house — in that age of coffee-houses — was without it; 
and the authors writing with the ease, pleasantry, and knowledge of 


life, rather of men of the world and men about town, than mere literarj' 
recluses, soon gained the attention of the class they addressed. The 
Tatler continued about a year, when it was remodelled into the far 
more celebrated and successful Spectator. This was carried on upon 
the same plan, with the difference that it appeared every day; and after 
reaching five hundred and fifty-five numbers was discontinued for a 
short time, after which it was resumed in 1714, and extended to about 
eighty numbers more. A third journal, the Giiardiaft, was commenced 
in 1712, and reached one hundred and seventy-five numbers, but was 
strikingly inferior to the Spectator both in talent and success. Though 
master of a singularly ready and pleasant pen, Steele was of course 
obliged to obtain as much assistance as he could from his friends ; and 
many writers of the time furnished hints or contributions — Swift, 
Berkeley, Budgell, and others. But the most constant and powerful 
aid was supplied by Addison, who entered warmly into the project; 
and even while absent in Ireland contributed a very considerable 
and certainly the most valuable proportion of papers, amounting in the 
Tatler to about one sixth, in the Spectator to more than one half, and 
in the Guardian to one third of the whole quantity of matter. Addi- 
son's contributions to the Spectator are generally signed with one of 
the letters composing the word Clio. After dissipating more than one 
fortune, and committing all kinds of extravagant follies, poor Steele, 
who had thrown himself with his usual headlong zeal into politics, died 
in great poverty at Carmarthen in Wales, in 1729. 

§ 3. In 1713 Addison brought out his tragedy of Cato^ which, partly 
from the eminence of its author, partly from the avidity with which the 
political allusions were caught up and applied hy furious parties, and 
in some degree, also, it is but fair to add, from the stately dignity of the 
declamation, enjoyed an enormous popularity. It is a solemn, cold, 
and pompous series of tirades in the French taste, and is written in 
scrupulous adherence to the severest rules of the imaginary classical 
unities ; but the intrigue is totally devoid either of interest or proba- 
bilitj^, and the characters, including Cato himself, are mere frigid em- 
bodiments of patriotic and virtuous rhetoric. The declamation, how- 
ever, is in parts dignified and noble ; and the famous soliloquy on suicide, 
pronounced by the hero, is a passage of much merit, though by no 
means merit of a dramatic nature. In 1716 Addison married the 
Dowager Countess of Warwick, to whose son he had in former daj's 
been tutor; but this union does not seem to have added much to his 
happiness. The lady was of a haughtj' and irritable character; and 
Addison probably enjoyed far more of that friendly and lettered ease 
which he so prized, when a poor adventurer haunting the coffee-houses, 
than when residing under the fantastic roofs of Holland House, to 
which historic abode he has bequeathed the glory of his presence. 
Neither in the House of Commons, of which he was for some time a 
member, nor in Government offices where he performed important 
duties, was Addison distinguished for eloquence or ready business 
talents, though there is no reason to believe the common anecdotes 

A. D. 1672-1719.] JOSEPH ADDISON: 293 

which make him incapable of writing an ordinary official paper ; but 
his invincible timidity prevented him from speaking, if ever, at least 
frequently or with effect ; and his powers of conversation, which were ex- 
traordinary, are said to have quite -deserted him in the presence of more 
than one or two hearers ; and it was necessary, too, that they should be 
intimate friends, with whom he felt himself perfectly at ease. To con- 
quer his natural diffidence, and to give flow and vivacity to his ideas, Ad- 
dison is said, both for conversation and composition, to have had recourse 
to wine; and this is almost the only defect with which his otherwise 
almost perfect character can be reproached. In making the accusation 
we must not forget that excessive drinking was rather the fashion than 
regarded as the vice of the age in England. 

In 1717 Addison reached the highest point of his political career: he 
was made Secretary of State, and in this eminent position he exhibited 
the same liberality, modesty, and genuine public spirit that had char- 
acterized his whole life. Nothing is more honorable to him than that, 
in an age when political struggles were carried on with the most 
unscrupulous perfidy and intolerant violence, he should never have 
been induced, either by interest or cowardice, to desert his friends who 
might be ranged under opposing banners ; and in his controversies, 
which he actively carried on principally in the journals entitled the 
Freeholder and the Examiner^ he never departed from a tone of can- 
dor, moderation, and good breeding, which he was almost the first to 
introduce into political discussion. Of this noble feature in his char- 
acter, his fidelity to his old personal friendship with Swift, in spite of the 
latter's apostasy and defeat, is a striking example. He did not retain 
his post of Secretary of State for a long period : he soon retired, with 
a handsome pension of 1500/. a year, and determined to devote the 
evening of his days to the composition of an elaborate work on the 
evidences of the Christian religion. In this task he was interrupted by 
death, which cut short his career in 1719. One of the most interesting 
literary events in his life i» his quarrel, or rather , misunderstanding, 
with Pope. The latter, who was of a singularly malignant and insin- 
cere nature, suspected Addison of being jealous of his fame, and of 
employing, under the mask of friendship, disingenuous arts to depre- 
ciate his works. He particularly made use of a natural source of mis- 
understanding, really arising out of Addison's extreme delicacy, to 
accuse him of unfair conduct respecting his translation of the Iliad, of 
which Addison's friend Tickell had also translated a portion, and taken 
his advice respecting it : moreover he alleged that Addison, in dissuad- 
ing any alteration in the first sketch of the Rape of the Loch, had been 
actuated by unworthy motives of